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Thank you for the thorough and clear revisions.
The referees like your paper and make recommendaitons to improve it. Can you attend to these points and respond to them clearly to help me make a final decision. Could you also have an independent good English editor read over the paper to address the second referees suggestion? Please note that PeerJ does not proof read the English for you. Also, double check all figures will be legible when reduced in size in the publication (text on Fig 2?) because they will be published as submitted.
No comments, see general comments.
No comments; see general comments.
No comments; see general comments.
Review: Testing animal-assisted cleaning prior to transplantation in
coral reef restoration
This study is a simple and elegant solution to the problem that fish were dislodging corals from a transplantation site by feeding on biofouling fauna surrounding the nursery grown corals; by allowing the fish to clean the biofouling before transplantation. The solution to this problem was seemingly very simple and intuitive, but by demonstrating this in a clear experimental framework, this knowledge can be transferred to other projects and to the scientific community. Reef restoration efforts are rarely accompanied by such clear experimental design, hard data, and useful information. I am very impressed that this paper will set an example for future restoration work to solve problems not by guesswork, but by data driven experimentation. The paper has no experimental flaws and overall it is very well written. I have minor suggestions for making the tone a bit more scientific and slightly less colorful, but other than that I recommend publication with minimal delay.
Line 47: It should be made clear that the coral gardening concept does not necessarily require rope nurseries (that is just one possible approach).
Line 63: reporting the average and error without the count is not very informative: is this per nursery or per dive? What is the count?
Line 75-77; replace mob and rammed with more scientific terms.
Line 79; this seems like an unusually precise number; is this an approximation?
Line 81; suggest replacing forced us with required repeating…
Line 85; suggest delete “hungry”, the fish could have been ‘full’ and just mean…the assumption is probably correct, but it’s not necessary to make.
line 106: what was the diameter of the PVC?
Line 194: replaced we were certain, with we determined.
Line 207 -212; suggest referencing the figure.
Line 309: typ-o 316?
Line 315; suggest introducing the term cleaning station in the methods and sticking with that term in the figures as well.
Line 318: Last line of the discussion is one of the most important lines in the paper; what closing message do you want to leave with the reader. I think you might mention in the intro that restoration projects are rarely very data or experimentally driven and that this study is an example how relatively straight forward experiments can provide clear solutions to problems. You should also add somewhere in the discussion recommendations for future work. What about the interactions between access by the fish community and coral growth?
This is a useful study and the results warrant publication. However, while the manuscript is intelligible, the grammar needs a little work in places. I would suggest this manuscript would benefit from a thorough edit to improve continuity and remove a few pieces of redundant text. For example I would elite the sentence beginning on l68 "Such support is absent..."
I think the ms would benefit also from some effort to simplify and strive for brevity. The essential message is that following observations that biofouling associated with nursery reared corals attracted fish which increase the risk of post-transplantation dislodgement. Hence the study explored a novel approach to biological management of fouling organisms etc etc
Straightforward design principles were used, including adequate levels of replication.
I feel that there should be more detail provided on the assessment of the post-transplantation dislodgment. The problem as outlined in Figure 1 is apparently resolved after the cleaning station treatment approach is used, but it is difficult to understand how the dislodgment data was gathered in each case. For example, what was the density of transplantation and when or how frequently post-transplantation was the level of detachment measured.
The results seem sound and the information of use. Biological control of fouling organisms has been undertaken elsewhere, including with transplanted corals, eg. Omori, 2005,2007, so I would encourage the authors to broaden their exploration of the literature around this topic to place their work into a broader context.
Omori M (2005) Success of mass culture of Acropora corals from egg
to colony in open water. Coral Reefs 24:563
M. Omori, K. Iwao, M. Tamura (2007) Growth of transplanted Acropora tenuis 2 years after egg culture. Coral Reefs 27(1): 165
The authors would likely strengthen the significance of this work if they could assess the cost-benefit of the staged cleaning area approach relative to other protocols for nursery culture and transplantation.
Similarly, I feel that the observations on the net-based nursery being more effective that just a rope system unless the rope system is established over a cleaning area supporting diverse fish community should be elaborated on further, as to the pros and cons or relative costs of both culture systems.
I think this work is innovative and suggests a few new lines of research worth exploring in the development of more cost effective coral culture. The authors may wish to explore the effect of nursery culture over such cleaning station habitats on smaller coral colonies, as a key bottleneck to coral production remains the high mortality in the first year post-settlement when sexually produced juveniles are cultured.. It would be useful therefore to know if culture from the very smallest sizes of viable fragments in this type of situation would bring improvements
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