CRF is leading the development of offshore nursery and restoration methods to preserve unique genetic lineages of staghorn and elkhorn coral for research and restoration purposes. Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) were once the dominant building reef building corals in the Florida Keys and Caribbean. Due to multiple stressors in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the population of these two species decline dramatically, leaving the remaining corals scattered and facing local extinction.
Tens of thousands of corals are produced through pioneering propagation techniques and housed in multiple offshore nurseries. Corals are maintained and strategically outplanted on local reefs to promote genetic diversity during spawning events. CRF continues to collaborate closely with other organizations to further develop strategies for restoring threatened species of corals.
Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a fast growing, branching coral that naturally forms dense thickets along fore and back reef areas. This species has experienced a 98% decline over the past 30 years, leaving the remaining corals scattered and facing local extinction. CRF began its Tavernier Staghorn Nursery in 2001. Since inception, growth methods have evolved to become the most efficient and effective way to grow second and third generations of staghorn coral. Corals are grown in the offshore nursery by disk, line, and tree nurseries until they are mature enough to be outplanted on local reefs. CRF tags and monitors each outplanted colony.
Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is a large, branching coral typically found in shallow, high-energy reef areas. Multiple stresses in the past 30 years have caused a 90% decline in elkhorn populations. CRF began its Snapper Ledge elkhorn nursery in 2009. As with the other nurseries that CRF operates, the Snapper Ledge nursery has proven successful and produces hundreds of elkhorn colonies a year. In July 2012, CRF was the first organization to perform an elkhorn restoration project in the U.S. using nursery raised elkhorn colonies.
Since CRF’s initial restoration on the Wellwood grounding site on Molasses Reef in 2003, CRF has outplanted approximately 4,000 staghorn corals at over 20 different reefs in the Upper Keys of Florida. CRF was the first to outplant nursery raised elkhorn corals in July 2012 on Molasses Reef.
Coral reefs are located throughout the world’s tropical oceans. CRF has developed effective, affordable nursery and restoration programs that can be implemented on a global scale. CRF believes that empowering coastal communities to take their own action towards resource and reef management yields the best results.