Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

David Gilliam, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alison Moulding, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lauren Nadler, Ph.D.


Mitigation boulders, Benthic community structure, southeast Florida, Long-term coral reef monitoring, Restoration, Rubble, Ship Groundings, Stabilization


Coral reefs are widely regarded as one of the world’s most important ecosystems. These ecosystems have been in a state of rapid decline worldwide due to chronic stressors and acute disturbances. Ship groundings on coral reefs are one of the most destructive acute disturbances, damaging both the biological community and the underlying reef framework. Once disturbed, these reef ecosystems often require restoration to promote recovery. Southeast Florida is home to an extensive high latitude reef system located near a highly developed and densely populated coast. In 2006, two large commercial vessels, the Spar Orion and Clipper Lasco, grounded north of the Port Everglades entrance channel offshore Broward County, Florida. Both groundings caused substantial reef damage. Grounding site visits three and four years after the grounding events showed limited coral reef community recovery and direct management action was recommended. Stabilization efforts were completed within the vessel created bow scars at both sites in December 2015. These efforts included relocating rubble into the bow scars, capping the rubble with large limestone boulders, and grouting the boulders and rubble with concrete. The benthic community was monitored annually at fixed transects on the stabilized bow scars, remaining rubble areas, and at nearby undamaged reference reef sites, and spatiotemporal differences in benthic biological community composition and physical characteristics were examined. Results from this study showed that from 2016 to 2022, stony coral (≥ 5 cm) density increased by 700% and stony coral recruit (< 5 cm) density increased by 1200% on boulder transects. In that same time, stony coral (≥ 5 cm) density increased 170% and stony coral recruit (< 5 cm) density decreased 15% at rubble transects. These results suggest boulder deployment may promote stony coral recovery following ship groundings, creating habitat more similar to un-impacted reef than unconsolidated rubble. Tis study demonstrates the value of long-term restoration monitoring to better understand reef succession after disturbance events.