The global decline of brown algal forests along rocky coasts is causing an exceptional biodiversity loss. Regardless of conservation efforts, different techniques have been developed for large-scale restoration strategies in the Mediterranean Sea. In this study we tested ex situ pilot restoration of Gongolaria barbata (=Treptacantha barbata) for the first time in Slovenian coastal waters. Healthy apical fronds of the species were collected and the development of recruits on clay tiles was followed under laboratory conditions for 20 days. Despite the experimental difficulties experienced, especially due to the lack of antibiotics to prevent the growth of the biofilm, G. barbata recruits were outplanted in the sea on two concrete plates with 48 tiles each, protected by purpose-built cages to avoid grazing by herbivorous fish. The high survival rate of juveniles after four months in the field (89% of the tiles on the plate that was constantly protected) suggests that outplanting G. barbata is an operable approach for restoration efforts in the northern Adriatic Sea. Our first experiment in Slovenian coastal waters provides new information for the optimization of the best practices during the laboratory cultivation and addresses the early steps of restoration and introduction of young thalli in the natural environment.

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