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Staghorn and Elkhorn Corals to Be Planted in Waters off Florida and U.S. Virgin Islands

Up to 10,000 colonies will be added to degraded reefs.

May 18, 2012

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Ken Nedimyer of Coral Restoration Foundation outplants a nursery-grown coral at Molasses Reef in Key Largo, Florida. Copyright Notice © 2012 Tim Calver.

Degraded coral reefs in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be the recipients of up to 10,000 cultured staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata) thanks to a project managed by The Nature Conservancy and administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "These two species of coral are the most important to the reef system – they are the girders and I-beams of reefs that provide critical fish habitat,” said James Byrne, marine biologist for The Nature Conservancy, which is overseeing the project.

Scientists began growing staghorn and elkhorn corals in 2009 with the goal of growing 12,000 coral colonies. More than 30,000 colonies were grown, with corals ranging in size from tennis balls to soccer balls. All 10,000 corals are slated to be transplanted before the end of 2012. Coral experts are hoping that these corals will thrive in their future locations, which have been chosen to enhance their chance of reproduction and genetic diversity. The two corals, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006, have suffered due to hurricanes, disease and coral bleaching.


The project, the largest coral restoration of its kind in the United States, is one of 50 NOAA projects that received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The project is a partnership with NOAA, Mote Marine Laboratory, Nova Southeastern University, University of Miami RSMAS, the Coral Restoration Foundation and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

  "Millions of people depend on these reefs for food, coastal protection and income from tourism,” said Samuel Rauch, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries.  "Restoring them is not only an environmental imperative, it’s a public priority.”

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Staghorn and Elkhorn Corals to Be Planted in Waters off Florida and U.S. Virgin Islands

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Reader Comments

Theresa    Orlando, FL

7/20/2012 1:20:13 PM

The Nature Conservancy will plant 10,000 staghorn and elkhorn coral this year and ultimately 20,000 from Dry Tortugas to Jupiter (about 1 hour north of Maimi)-- along more than 1/3 of Florida's Atlantic Coast. Check it out:

Bill    Beckley,, WV

5/23/2012 10:32:42 AM

If these are being transplanted in the John Pennekamp National Marine Park, they may not stand a very good chance due in part to the fact that this reef is a very popular dive spot and that destructive waves from Atlantic hurricanes hit this area more often than one might think.
If they are being transplanted in the Dry Tortugas, they may stand a better chance for survival.
Wherever they are being transplanted, I hope that they do well.

Angelo    San Leandro, CA

5/20/2012 12:26:09 PM

I hope that it replenishes the eco-system.

Mike    Marshall, MN

5/20/2012 8:39:12 AM

I hope they survive and thrive.

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