Title

The Use of Coral Nurseries as a Coral Reef Management Tool Off the Coast of Southeast Florida, USA

Event Name/Location

International Society for Reef Studies European Meeting, Cambridge, United Kingdom, September 4-7, 2002

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

9-2002

Abstract

Natural and anthropogenic damage to coral reefs, especially those in environmentally sensitive and densely populated areas like Broward County, Florida, USA, is a growing concern for reef managers and scientists. The Coral Nursery Project was established as a cooperative effort between local scientists (NCRI), resource managers (State of Florida and Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection), resource users (Ocean Watch Foundation Dive Club), and federal resources managers (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) to utilize corals of opportunity (i.e., overturned, loose, or dislodged corals) that may otherwise perish, for use in transplantation to damaged coral reef habitat. Transplanting scleractinian corals to damaged coral reefs has been shown to accelerate the early stages of recovery after reef habitat has been damaged. Until recently, however, donor corals for coral reef restoration were only obtained from two sources: those grown in laboratories and those taken from existing reef surfaces. The process of growing corals in a laboratory can be time consuming and expensive. Removing attached corals from one reef for transplantation elsewhere may result in no net gain. Instead, the Coral Nursery Project locates, collects, and transports corals of opportunity, which have become detached from the reef through various means, to an established nursery ground (artificial reef). These corals are then tagged, affixed to the substrate, and monitored for growth and survivorship. Corals from this nursery can provide a source of transplant donors for future restoration of coral reef habitat. During the first year of the project, over 150 corals of more than 15 species have been transplanted to the nursery. The survival rate of these colonies has exceeded 95%, a much larger success rate than what would be expected if these loose corals were left unattached. The results of the Coral Nursery Project study will provide resource managers information on coral species and colony size specific transplantation success. Future restoration activities can benefit from the use of the rescued corals of opportunity. Coral nurseries may become important tools in future coral reef habitat restoration projects.