M.S. Marine Biology
David S. Gilliam
Jose V. Lopez
This thesis is the first study to provide a detailed characterization of Acropora cervicornis transplants and donor colony survival on southeast Florida coral reefs. Since May 2006 this species has been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. As populations continue to decline restoration efforts need to be evaluated to determine if there is an effort that could facilitate a population rebound. The overall goal of this project was to examine potential Acropora cervicornis restoration techniques along the entire Florida reef tract including Broward County, Miami Dade County, and Monroe County. For my thesis I used a portion of the data collected from the Broward County region nursery. I analyzed data on the donor colonies and the nursery fragments. The goals were to determine if fragments generated from clippings removed from donor colonies can 1) be transplanted to a nursery site, 2) have acceptable survivorship and 3) increase in complexity (branching). Beyond survival and growth, I also examined genotypic differences in fragment survival and growth rates. Twelve A. cervicornis donor colonies separated by as much as 26 km were identified, and monitored quarterly for 19 months. From each donor colony three 10 cm clippings were removed for transplantation to the nursery habitat and one 1 cm clipping was taken for genetic analysis. Prior to transplantation, each 10 cm clipping was cut into 3 cm fragments. Transplantation occurred in September, October, and December 2007, transplanting 1/3 of the fragments horizontal and 2/3 vertical in orientation. Fragments in the nursery were monitored monthly through November 2008. During each monthly monitoring, images were taken, fragments were measured, branches were counted, and condition (partial mortality, disease, predation, etc.) was assessed. Each donor colony sampled with in Broward County for this project was determined to be a unique genotype using microsatellites. Significant differences in survival, growth, and number of branches were determined among fragment genotypes. Vertically orientated fragments had higher survivorship, but horizontal fragments had higher mean growth rates and number of branches per fragment. This coral restoration project has the real possibility of providing important information on the effectiveness of utilizing the asexual, fragmentation, capacity of A. cervicornis to facilitate A. cervicornis population conservation. My effort could contribute to a quantitative comparison of Acropora genotypic variation in survivorship and growth, which will provide information on intra- and inter-regional potential for large-scale restoration within the Florida reef tract.
Elizabeth Anne Larson. 2010. Establishment of an Acropora cervicornis (Staghorn Coral) Nursery: an Evaluation of Survivorship and Growth. Master's thesis. Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved from NSUWorks, Oceanographic Center. (213)