Research Projects

Coral Nursery

  • The scleractinian coral Acropora cervicornis was once a dominant building species in Caribbean coral reefs.
  • This species, however, has experienced drastic population declines during the last three decades attributed to multiple factors that include increased sea-surface temperatures and associated bleaching, hurricanes, and white band disease.
  • The recent decline of A. cervicornis across its full range has prompted the listing of this species as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006.
  • In 2007, we established an in-water coral nursery dedicated to the growth and propagation of staghorn coral within waters of Biscayne National Park, Florida.
  • The UM nursery, established with funding from NOAA and The Nature Conservancy, is part of a network of 4 staghorn nurseries in Broward County, Dade County, and the Florida Keys
  • The UM nursery contains > 250 fragments and nursery fragments have been transplanted to 4 sites in areas depleted of staghorn corals
  • The initial stages of the coral gardening program implemented for A. cervicornis in Biscayne National Park, Florida, US, have been encouraging and this approach has the potential to become an important tool to provide an expanding stock for future local reef restoration efforts.
  • Corals in the UM nursery have shown remarkable growth, with every cm of original tissue producing 6 cm of new tissue in the first year
  • The propagation of Acropora cervicornis via a coral gardening approach implemented within in-water nurseries using low-cost materials (e.g., cement, epoxy, cinder blocks), can provide an effective method to expand declining stocks of the threatened staghorn coral in Florida and elsewhere in the region

staghorn colral
Healthy stand of staghorn coral.
Photo by E. D'Alessandro

coral gardening
Photographs depicting the steps in the coral gardening approach used in this project. 1) Adult A. cervicornis colonies, 2) Fragmented colony, 3) Fragment from which smaller sections were cut, 4) Nursery platform with transplanted fragments

Photographs of fragments showing significant growth

growth platform
Photographs of a growth platform
from the UM nursery

The Nature Conservancy