Time For These Corals To Leave The Nursery

After growing in the University of Miami’s coral nursery for almost two years, staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) were finally outplanted to six sites in Miami-Dade County recently by members of Dr. Diego Lirman’s Benthic Ecology Lab at the Rosenstiel School. Starting in 2010 with only 6 meters of coral collected from wild donor colonies, the coral nursery grew into over 260 meters of healthy Acropora tissue available for transplantation. This year, almost 1,000 Acropora fragments (5-10 cm) were secured to local reef habitat using masonry nails and cable ties. Corals from distinct genotypes were outplanted to each site to promote genetic diversity, which will play an important role in 3 to 5 years when these corals begin to sexually reproduce. Corals were tagged with aluminum tags for quarterly monitoring including growth and overall health. In addition, fish surveys are conducted regularly to document potential fish recruitment and utilization due to increased coral cover, complexity and structure after growth of Acropora colonies.

Over 90% of outplanted corals survived their first 3 months after transplantation at all sites indicating successful outplanting methodologies were used and suitable conditions exist at the selected outplanting sites. Most corals “skirted” or grew healthy tissue onto the substrate and covered the nails and cable ties within 3 weeks of outplanting. High growth rates have also been observed with up to a 35% increase in healthy biomass! Luckily, few outplanted corals suffered damage from debris or storm surge during Tropical Storm Isaac in September. The Benthic Ecology Lab looks forward to checking up on the corals over the next few months to monitor their growth and survivorship.

-Stephanie A. Schopmeyer
Senior Research Associate
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