OUR 2nd RECORD BREAKING YEAR IN A ROW!
We broke ANOTHER record! In 2022, we broke our own record by returning 45,940 coral fragments to the wild! This knocks our previous record of 35,011 set in 2021 out of the water! Before that, in 2019, our record was 32,553.
Coral Restoration Foundation™ historic outplant numbers reflect massive scale growth! ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
This year’s record-breaking number consisted of 20,311 staghorn, 21,136 elkhorn, and 4,493 boulder colonies returned to the reefs of the Florida Keys. Not only did our outplant numbers grow, but the corals themselves did too! We monitor all our corals for things like health and growth over time. This lets us see how the reef is faring, and it is a more holistic measure of success for massive scale reef restoration. After 1 year our outplanted corals have grown 54% overall! This data includes our branching Acropora species at all reef sites and considers any corals that may have died! It is incredibly encouraging news because it shows that even when mortality is present there is a significant increase in living coral on the reef!
The operational impact of such amazing results is that our in-situ (open ocean) nurseries’ coral stocks were reduced. Each year our nurseries can produce around 45,000 reef ready corals, and we surpassed that number in 2022! To continue returning corals onto our reefs at world record numbers, one of our main objectives for 2023 is to raise more coral stock and slightly reduce our outplanting numbers. This will allow our nursery raised corals more time to grow to their reef-ready sizes. Accordingly, we will be spending more time in oue nurseries keeping the colonies we care for healthy by reducing competition and cutting out disease.
We are also looking forward to increased opportunities to explore more efficient and innovative outplanting methods. We will perform tests comparing the success of our current outplanting method with alternative methods and incorporate knowledge attained during our knowledge exchanges with restoration groups from around the world!
CRF™ and Coral Nurture Program divers set off for a day of coral outplanting during a knowledge exchange! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Currently, the Restoration Team uses a two-part marine epoxy to anchor corals onto the reef. The epoxy can be mixed on land or at the bottom of the ocean and solidifies in about 45 minutes which makes it extremely convenient to use, but convenience comes at a cost. Epoxy is quite expensive!
The alternative options we will be testing and comparing to the epoxy are the Coralclip ® and novel adhesive which we used for the first time during a knowledge exchange with an Australian based organization the Coral Nurture Program. The Coralclip ® uses a stainless steel spring clip attached by a nail integrated through the spring coil (Suggett et al. 2020). The novel adhesive consists of natural materials, such as tannic acid, to create a marine glue. We already know some alternative outplanting methods are cheaper and lighter than epoxy, and we will see if either option performs better.
All in all 2023 is looking to be a year of learning, growth, and collaboration for the CRF™ team as we care for our corals and continue to find ways to improve the fate of coral reefs!
Bringing It Back Editorial Intern
Jason was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida. With the ocean just 15 minutes away, Jason was on the water every weekend fishing, scuba diving, or just boating for fun throughout his childhood. He received his boater’s license at 10 years old, and got open water certified a year later. Sporadically diving throughout middle and high school, Jason’s love for the ocean grew immensely. It was in a senior high school class that his passion for the ocean solidified, which caused him to make a career choice once he started college. He studied marine biology at the University of Central Florida and conducted a research project looking at vertebrate impacts on mangroves on a newly restored shoreline within Canaveral National Seashore, Florida. With CRF, Jason is extremely excited to learn and conduct the cutting-edge restoration and conservation practices taught here.
Coral Chronicles Editor
Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. She comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, marketing and digital communications.
With CRF™ Madalen creates inclusive pathways to scientific discovery through content creation and by building and fostering relationships with press, digital media creators, and local community members. Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature, and is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration.