HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Diego Lirman

Third Advisor

Bernhard Riegl


This thesis provides a detailed analysis of the growth and survivorship of outplanted Acropora cervicornis corals from underwater nurseries within three regions of the Florida Reef Tract. Substantial loss of stony coral cover on Florida’s coral reefs, including the branching staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, has occurred for decades due to disturbances such as disease, temperature induced bleaching, hurricanes, sedimentation, and pollution. This rapid population decline contributed to A. cervicornis being listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in May 2006. To aid in the recovery of the species, coral fragments were grown in underwater nurseries and outplanted to selected sites located within unique cross-shelf zones in the Upper Florida Keys, Lower Keys, and Biscayne regions. This study evaluated the regional and zonal variation in growth and survivorship of known genotypes of outplanted A. cervicornis corals to better inform future large-scale restoration projects. The zone in which corals of A. cervicornis were outplanted to had a more significant effect on growth than the coral genotype. The forereef zone within the Upper and Lower Keys regions and the mid-channel zone in the Biscayne region had significantly higher mean growth rates. When comparing growth rates of genotypes that performed best, high growth, in the Lower Keys nursery, these same genotypes did not perform the best at any of the outplant sites. Survivorship was not significantly different in any of the regions. Based on these results, future coral outplantings focused in the forereef and mid-channel zones would maximize growth. Choosing coral genotypes based on their high growth rates in the nursery does not ensure the same high growth rates when outplanted.

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