HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Richard E. Dodge

Third Advisor

Walter C. Jaap


Coral reef degradation from ship groundings and construction activities is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common occurrence worldwide, especially in densely populated regions like southeast Florida, U.S.A., where each year there are a number of coral reef injury events that require mitigation and/or restoration. These activities generally begin with the rescue and reattachment (triage) of scleractinian corals dislodged during the injury event. Because dislodged colony mortality is typically high, colonies may die during legal enforcement action delays. Additionally, natural reef recovery in southeast Florida is typically slow; therefore, transplantation of additional (donor) scleractinian corals into an injured area has been used to restore natural species richness, percent cover, and density, which can accelerate reef recovery. Donor colonies available for transplantation have been grown in situ, grown in laboratories, and taken from uninjured reef areas. An alternative source of donor coral colonies for transplantation is “corals of opportunity,” which I define as scleractinian corals that have been detached from the reef through natural processes or unknown events. My thesis was part of a project, the Coral Nursery Project, initiated in 2001 in Broward County, Florida, U.S.A. that was developed to collect these dislodged colonies and transplant them to a coral nursery. Coral nurseries are interim locations that function as storage sites for corals of opportunity where they can be cached, stabilized, and allowed to grow until needed as donor colonies for future restoration activities. My thesis utilized a partnership between a local university, county government, and a volunteer dive group. Two hundred fifty-three corals of opportunity were located, collected, and transported to coral nurseries. Corals of opportunity were tagged, transplanted to the coral nurseries, and monitored quarterly for survivorship and growth from date of transplantation to February 2004. Survival of corals of opportunity transplanted to coral nurseries was found to be statistically similar to that of control corals naturally attached to reef, and significantly greater than that of control corals of opportunity left unattached. Growth rates of control corals naturally attached to reef were similar to that of corals of opportunity transplanted to coral nurseries. Results provide resource managers with information on the utility of using corals of opportunity as a source of transplant donor colonies, on coral species- and colony size-specific transplantation success, and on transplanted colony survival and growth. I discuss the value of using coral nurseries as cache sites for corals of opportunity to be used in future coral reef restoration activities, and provide recommendations for coral nursery characteristics for optimum coral survival, developing community-based restoration projects, and fostering participatory management. However, the ultimate goal of the Coral Nursery Project is to use these rescued corals of opportunity from this nursery as a source of donor coral transplants in future coral reef restoration activities. Stabilized and healthy transplanted corals of opportunity from this coral nursery will provide a living resource for coral transplantation during coral reef restoration projects. Corals of opportunity, coral nurseries, and integrated stakeholder involvement may become important tools in creating proactive coral reef management programs.


Thesis made possible in part by a community-based restoration program challenge grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (#99-195).

Also funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Ocean Program under award #NA16OA2413 to Nova Southeastern University for the National Coral Reef Institute.

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