Use of Aquacultured Acropora cervicornis Fragments for Restoration Activities
   Ilze Berzins, The Florida Aquarium

Abstract: One of the highest ranked conservation action items to abate the threats to coral reefs identified by the Florida Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy includes supporting restoration of damaged areas and replacement of species lost. Because coral grows slowly, availability of coral fragments for restoration of damaged reefs poses a significant problem. The Florida Aquarium & partners have been piloting a coral restoration project in the Florida Keys using aquacultured coral to create an abundant, readily available source of fragments for restoration work. The objectives of this project are: (1)To evaluate and comparing the survival of fragments of A. cervicornis at two types of land-based facilities (closed and open flow through) and an open ocean site, transplanted to a restoration site and assessed every 6 months.(2)To monitor the coral-associated microbial community in fragments of A. cervicornis reared in three types of culture systems (two land based culture conditions and one open-ocean facility), following transplantation (3)To test fragments of known genotypes for survival and growth in both culture and transplant conditions. The Florida Aquarium and partners began in 2005 to address questions concerning the use of aquacultured fragments for restoration: 1) whether culture techniques affect survival and growth of reintroduced fragments and 2) could these fragments become a vector for disease? The partners will apply the same techniques developed to Acropora cervicornis, a branching coral species with a faster growth rate. This project will examine factors that may affect coral transplantation success, including type of culture condition, genetic variation and changes in coral-associated microbial communities. This study, combined with the previous two studies, will provide a more complete picture of types of corals useful for restoration projects. Parent colonies will be fragmented for culture at two types of land based sites (closed system and open flow) and at an open-ocean site, cultured for 10-12 months, transplanted to restoration sites, and monitored for a year. Two key conservation challenges identified by the Florida Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy include partnership challenges and public awareness challenges. The team assembled to conduct the proposed study is exceptionally prepared to meet these concerns. The large number of facilities and institutions collaborating on the project provides an extensive range of expertise. The public awareness challenge will be met through conservation education programs, visitor experiences, undergraduate and graduate student training, media events, presentations at professional meetings and workshops, and published papers.

Award Matching Funds Total
$89,084.00 $89,084.00 $178,168.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2009 1/15/2010 2/28/2013

Location: Broward and Monroe Counties