The NSU Coral Nursery Initiative is a hallmark research project of the Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. Located both on-shore and about a mile off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, the NSU OC coral nursery is fostering re-growth and increased abundance of the threatened staghorn coral species, Acropora cervicornis, which is likely to be soon listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The nursery project offers hope for species recovery and for coral reef restoration.
Research conducted by NSU’s scientists and students is devoted to understanding the species ecology, improving coral conservation methods, and promoting coral reef restoration and species recovery. Staghorn coral colonies are being successfully grown while nurtured in a safe setting and next outplanted to the natural reef. Using small fragments removed from the nursery-reared colonies as they grow increases the number of staghorn colonies able to be transplanted to the natural environment. By locating more colonies in close proximity on the reef, the likelihood of sexual reproduction is increased. In addition, the nurseries generate specimens for scientific research, eliminating the need to otherwise collect from the wild.
Staghorn corals are vitally important foundation species on our reefs. However, in many places throughout Florida and the Caribbean they have been vastly reduced in abundance by environmental stressors. The Coral Nursery Initiative provides a tool for recovery. Coral reefs represent an extremely valuable resource for Broward County. An economic study has shown that the various uses of coral reefs contributes more than $2 billion to the County’s annual economy and creates more than 36,000 jobs! The coral reefs provide shelter for many juvenile fish species and invertebrates, including recreational and commercially important species such as grouper, snapper, and lobster. They provide aesthetic pleasure and recreation for local and tourist divers and boaters. The presence of reefs helps prevent erosion to our shores and beaches.
Currently the NSU Coral Nursery Initiative has an annual operations budget of over $100,000. The Initiative supports graduate research assistant students to help manage the operation, collect specimens, maintain the nursery, and transplant colonies back to natural reefs. In addition, supplies are needed including diving gear, transplant materials, and boat time.
Photo Credits: Tim Calver, The Nature Conservancy.