HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Amy Hirons

Third Advisor

Amanda Bourque


Knowledge of effective reef restoration techniques are necessary in this age of worldwide coral reef decline. Coral transplantation is a restoration technique employed after natural (i.e. hurricanes) and anthropogenic (i.e. vessel groundings) physical disturbance events. The study was conducted to compare the efficacy of propagating small colony fragments in laboratory and field conditions in terms of survival and growth. Fragment growth and survival were assessed for six scleractinian boulder corals common to Florida and Caribbean reefs: Montastraea annularis, M. cavernosa, Diploria clivosa, Siderastrea siderea, S. radians and Dichocoenia stokesii. Broken coral colonies were salvaged from vessel grounding sites and marine debris, fragmented into pucks and secured to travertine tiles. One hundred and fifty-three coral colony fragments were cultivated in an ex situ laboratory nursery and 133 coral colony fragments were cultivated in an in situ field nursery and monitored for 13 months. Survival of all colonies was 94%, with 98% survival in the laboratory treatment and 89% survival in the field treatment. Complete colony mortality was documented in three S. radians colonies, all in the laboratory treatment. All colony loss in the field treatment was due to colony pucks being detached from the tiles. Overall mean percent change in colony tissue area from initial to final monitoring events was calculated to determine growth. Across species, growth was greater in the laboratory treatment (76 ± 4 % SEM) in comparison to the field treatment (27 ± 5 % SEM). Positive growth was observed in D. clivosa, D. stokesii, M. annularis, M. cavernosa and S. siderea in the laboratory treatment. In the field treatment, D. clivosa, M. annularis and M. cavernosa were the only species that exhibited positive growth. Negative growth was observed in both the laboratory and field treatments for S. radians. In conclusion, colonies propagated in the ex situ nursery (laboratory treatment) had higher growth and survival than colonies propagated in the in situ nursery (field treatment). A critical acclimation period accomplished through the use of stable laboratory conditions will produce healthier, more secure coral colonies that may be used to repopulate disturbed reef sites.

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