Master of Science
David Gilliam, Ph.D.
Joana Figueiredo, Ph.D.
Diego Lirman, Ph.D.
Restoration, Site Selection, Rapid Assessment, Coral Microfragmentation, Southeast Florida
Microfragmentation of massive stony coral species is a technique being utilized to propagate corals asexually to help restore coral reefs. Microfragmentation consists of cutting corals into 3 cm diameter or less fragments, which boosts growth rates. However, in some locations the size of microfragments make them vulnerable to parrotfish predation and benthic overgrowth, reducing survival. As such, a method to identify key site characteristics which promotes microfragment outplant success, particularly one that can be performed quickly across multiple areas is needed. A rapid site assessment conducted prior to microfragment outplanting was performed at 12 randomly selected sites within the Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area in Broward County, Florida to predict the subsequent success of outplants. The assessment quantified habitat complexity and the species richness, density, size distribution, and health of the stony coral community. Following the assessment, a grid of 42 cement mounds, each holding one individual microfragment, was established at each site. After 6-months post-outplanting, microfragment success was determined based on survival and growth rates and compared to site characteristics captured by the rapid assessment. Survival was overall > 90% with little variation found between species. Growth rates were variable among species, but all were lower than natural growth rates. The rapid assessments were able to capture site characteristics that influenced microfragment outplant success: habitat complexity, wild coral density, and the prevalence of wild coral health conditions. Despite such little variation found between sites, these characteristics can be used as indicators for outplant site selection.
John J. Alfirevich. 2023. A Rapid Site Selection Assessment as an Indicator of Stony Coral Microfragment Outplant Success. Master's thesis. Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved from NSUWorks, . (165)