Hogeschool Leiden

Application of bacteria as probiotics in coral reef restoration at Bonaire

Worldwide, coral reefs are rapidly declining due to increased sea water temperatures and other environmental stresses. To counter the extinction of major coral reef building species on the island of Bonaire, the non-profit organization Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire is restoring degraded reef sites using corals that are grown in local nurseries.

In these nurseries, corals are propagated on artificial trees using fragmentation. After 6-8 months of growth in the nursery, the corals are transplanted to degraded reef sites around the island. Over the years more than 21.000 corals have been outplanted to reef restoration sites in this way. These corals show high survivorship under natural reef conditions but remain under threat by environmental disturbances, such as increased water temperatures, diseases, and competition with macroalgae.

A promising intervention to increase reef persistence and resilience is to manipulate the coral-associated microbiome. At present, the composition of the microbiome in nursery-reared and outplanted corals on Bonaire is unknown. The aim of the current project is to identify and isolate naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that may stimulate the resilience of these corals.

Our key objectives are:1) to assess the presence of functionally beneficial bacteria in corals in nursery and restoration sites on Bonaire using metagenomic screening. 2) to design culture strategies to isolate these functionally beneficial bacteria. In the future, a selection of these beneficial bacteria can be applied to the corals to increase their resilience against environmental disturbances.

Hogeschool Leiden


  • Isolate and identify naturally occurring beneficial bacteria with metagenomic screening (Nanopore sequencing, MinION)
  • Design culture strategies to isolate these functionally beneficial bacteria
  • Metabarcoding


Type project KIEM-hbo
Looptijd 31-01-2020 t/m 1-6-2021
Status Lopend


Innovatieve Moleculaire Diagnostiek
Projectleiding Maarten Morsink (BM)
Docentonderzoeker(s) Maarten Morsink (BM)
Analist(en) Angela Hoogenboom, Nikola Petrusevski
Student(en) 1 student BM 4e jaars
Partner(s) RRFB, WUR, Naturalis