In light of the devastating coral bleaching event that has impacted reefs throughout Florida the Caribbean, Coral Restoration Foundation™ (CRF™) is proud to announce a timely and significant grant.
The award of $6.9 million is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's Climate-Ready Coasts Initiative. This will be matched with $4.1 million by CRF™, to realize the $11 million CRF™ project, “Multi-Site Coral Reef Restoration to Build Resilient Communities in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.” This funding comes at a crucial moment for coral reefs, offering a beacon of hope during challenging times.
CRF™ CEO Dr. R Scott Winters explains, "This summers' bleaching event is a stark reminder of the threats our reefs face. But with this grant, we're not just reacting – we're proactively supporting grass roots organizations in building a future in which coral ecosystems continue to exist.”
In a period where many of the region's reefs have degraded beyond their capacity to recover on their own, this project brings renewed hope for Caribbean corals. CRF™ will focus on supporting local groups in their efforts to rebuild populations of five ESA-listed species and four other stony-coral species using best practices in coral restoration and conservation management. But a critical aspect of this work also focusses on capacity building and livelihoods.
“This isn't just about coral restoration,” explains Winters, “As we rebuild these habitats, we're also investing in the communities that rely on them. It's an integrated approach to ensuring both ecological and economic resilience in the face of climate challenges."
The highlights of the project are as follows:
Strategic Restoration of Genetically Diverse Coral Populations: Core project activities include increasing the populations of specific coral species in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands (USVI). The focus is on genetic diversity and bolstering these corals’ adaptive potential, and ongoing genetic analysis to inform future restoration strategies. The work will support location-specific restoration plans in collaboration with local partners working to realize territory-wide restoration goals. In the USVI, CRF™ will be supporting the Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and USVI RoCS (Restoration of Coral Squad). In Puerto Rico, activities will be carried out in collaboration with Sea Ventures Marine Response Unit and the Institute for Socio-Ecological Research. In Florida, CRF™ will be reintroducing over 70,000 colonies of endangered coral species across Mission: Iconic Reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, enhancing genetic diversity in the wild, and bolstering in-situ coral nursery infrastructure.
Immediate Benefits to Underserved Communities: The work of restoring these marine ecosystems will have a direct socio-economic impact on communities. By partnering with local businesses and providing employment and training, funds are funnelled directly back into the local economies.
Economic Impact: Florida’s Coral Reef brings in approximately $7 billion in economic value to the state. This initiative will not only bolster the health of these reefs but also have a positive impact on the industries and communities that depend on them.
Supporting Ecosystem Resilience: With climate change severely impacting coral reefs, this project ensures their adaptability. By focusing on genetic diversity and restoration activities, the initiative drives both the recovery of ecosystem services and measurable economic and social benefits.
The project is slated to begin on June 1, 2023, and continue through 2026. However, CRF™ is dedicated to prolonging these restoration efforts beyond the grant's timeframe, committing an additional $2.5M for restoration in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands after the award period.
This grant marks a significant step in the commitment of CRF™ to creating resilient coral habitats that benefit both the environment and the communities that rely on them.