HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Nicole Fogarty

Third Advisor

Alison Moulding


This thesis is the first known study to relocate Acropora cervicornis across multiple regions of the Florida Reef Tract. Since 2006, A. cervicornis has been listed as a threatened coral species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. In response, restoration efforts utilizing coral nursery methods have been implemented throughout the Caribbean. The primary objective of this research was to determine the response of A. cervicornis colonies to being relocated between two coral nurseries separated by approximately 150km along the Florida Reef Tract. To accomplish this, a reciprocal transport was conducted between coral fragments with known genotypes from Broward County and Monroe County, Florida. A subset of coral ramets (fragments of a single genotype) was removed from the nursery of origin and relocated to the opposing coral nursery, while the remaining ramets stayed in their original nursery to serve as controls. Following transplant, both relocated and non-relocated corals were monitored for 14 months and survivorship, growth rates, branching frequency, and coral condition data were collected. In addition, tissue samples were collected twice during the monitoring period to determine zooxanthellae densities. Reaction norms were used to predict the responses of each measured variable for each genotype in response to being relocated. Relocated coral colonies from both nurseries exhibited equal or greater survivorship than the non-relocated corals from their original nursery. Growth rates, branching frequency, and zooxanthellae densities were highest in the corals that were previously in or relocated to Broward County. Within each nursery, relocated and non-relocated corals were not significantly different in any of the measured parameters. Throughout the study period, there were no signs of disease, bleaching, or predation on any of the corals. These findings demonstrate that A. cervicornis colonies can be successfully relocated across regions of the Florida Reef Tract suggesting that colonies throughout the FRT may be used for collaborative restoration efforts. Reaction norm analysis indicated phenotypically plastic responses in each growth parameter with some instances of genotype-by-environment interactions. Finally, these results suggest the need for additional research to investigate regional differences in A. cervicornis populations for proper management and restoration approaches.

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