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Establishment and Maintenance of a Coral Nursery

Principal Investigator: David S. Gilliam, Ph.D.


Coral nursery diversCoral reef injury is unfortunately becoming a common occurrence. Reattachment of dislodged scleractinian (stony) corals usually initiates injury restoration. Typically colony mortality is high and natural recovery is slow, therefore, transplantation of additional corals into an injury area may accelerate recovery. Generally, donor colonies for transplantation have been grown in laboratories, and removed from non-injured reef areas.

An alternative source of donor colonies for transplantation into injury areas is "corals of opportunity," which are stony corals that have been detached from the reef through natural processes or unknown injury events. The Coral Nursery project was developed to collect these dislodged colonies and transplant them to a nursery where they will grow and be available as donor colonies for restoration activities.

Project and Findings

Coral nursery and research diversThe Coral Nursery Project (CNP) is a partnership between NCRI, local county government (BC EPD), and a volunteer dive group (Ocean Watch Foundation). The CNP objectives are: (1) to create a corals of opportunity nursery to be used to help restore injured reefs, (2) to provide reef managers with coral transplantation success information, and (3) to recruit diving volunteers from the community with interests in the marine environment to assist with and learn about coral identification, data collection, and transplantation procedures while also increasing public awareness and education.

Initiated in 2001, this highly successful project has transplanted over 300 corals of opportunity, representing 17 species, to the nursery. These colonies have a high survival rate (96.0%) and are ready to be incorporated into restoration activities.

Implications for Management

CNP success is measured in the importance of the reef restoration information gathered, which benefits the management community, and in the importance of community outreach and education provided through volunteer involvement. CNP supports NCRI goals and NCRI's involvement with the USCRTF and the SEFCRI by promoting wise management, sustainable use, and restoration of coral reef ecosystems while working with local government and volunteer groups. Although original funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the NOAA Fisheries Community-Based Restoration Program has ended, NCRI and its local partners (BCEPD and OWF) are committed to continuing this valuable project.

  • Broward County Department of Environmental Protection
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • Ocean Watch Foundation
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