Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

David Gilliam

Second Advisor

Joana Figueiredo

Third Advisor

Claudia Padilla Suoza


Arrecife de Puerto Morelos National Park, Coral restoration, Mesoamerican Reefs, stony coral microfragmentation, Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD).


The Arrecife de Puerto Morelos National Park (APMNP) has been a marine protected area in Mexico’s Mesoamerican Reef since 1998 and includes ~90 km2 of coral reef. Significant declines in stony coral cover have been recorded within the APMNP, primarily due to increasing ocean temperatures and disease events which precipitated the need for active restoration activities. This study addressed if current APMNP conditions, in relation to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), are appropriate for the restoration of stony corals through outplanting SCTLD-susceptible species microfragments. In September 2022, three species (Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella annularis, and O. faveolata) were cut into 1-4 cm2 microfragments (n = 1,504) and secured onto plugs. Microfragments were kept at an ex situ nursery before being outplanted at six APMNP sites. At each site, cement bases with three or seven microfragments from one parent colony were outplanted in a random pattern within a 20 m2 plot. Microfragment outplant success was assessed by survival, growth, and health conditions between species and site locations. Additionally, during each monitoring event, SCTLD prevalence was recorded at outplant and control sites to evaluate if outplanting SCTLD-susceptible speciesaffected disease prevalence in the natural population. Although mean (±SE) survival for all species combined was 84.28% ± 3.28 nine months post-outplanting, the microfragments exhibited minimal relative net growth suggesting chronic pressures currently limit the long-term potential for restoration via microfragmentation. However, introducing SCTLD-susceptible stony coral species did not increase disease prevalence in the surrounding natural colonies at any sites, suggesting that other restoration activities could be implemented in the APMNP.