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Boulder Corals Back on the Reef!

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

The Coral Restoration Foundation™ team is thrilled to announce that we have officially outplanted our very first nursery-grown boulder corals!

So how do we do it, and what does this mean for the reef? 

Curious trunkfish explore the new addition to their home at Carysfort Reef; freshly outplanted boulder corals!

Modifying Our Methods While we have had years to develop effective outplant methods for staghorn and elkhorn corals, we had to explore different methods for boulder corals.

Unlike branching corals, boulder corals grow out onto the substrate on a single plane, and then grow upwards, developing into massive "boulder-like" mounds. For this reason, we decided to grow the boulder corals in our nurseries on plugs – small round 'plates' with a peg at the bottom. The boulder coral can grow out along the plate, and then we can stick the peg directly into the reef. (In case you missed it, check out the August Edition of "Bringing it Back" for information about the special Coral Trees™ we designed for growing boulder corals!)

Making holes in a limestone reef is quite the challenge! This required some serious tools like our brand new, underwater NEMO drill. After clearing the reef of any algae or growth, the NEMO drill gets put to work. Once the holes are drilled, the process is relatively simple. We place a small ball of our two-part marine Apoxie, inside the drilled hole, and press the plug in. The Apoxie locks the plug in place and after smoothing the Apoxie out around the sides, the plug is secure.

What Boulder Corals Mean for the Reef So, why would we go about putting in all the effort to grow and outplant a species we have not previously worked with? Because SCIENCEof course!

One of the goals of Coral Restoration Foundation™ is to restore coral reefs to as close to a natural state as possible. The natural state of the Florida Reef Tract includes a wide variety of coral species, from branching coral like our beloved staghorn and elkhorn, to pillar corals, soft corals, and boulder corals. By adding more boulder corals to the reef, we are encouraging a biodiverse ecosystem. But what does biodiversity mean for the reef?

Biodiversity is the key to success for coral reefs! Biodiversity in the coral itself means a variation in habitat, as corals are the backbone of a reef ecosystem. Structural variation means many different places to live, allowing the reef to support more shrimp, more fish, more rays, more nudibranchs, more life! Research shows that biodiversity makes ecosystems more resilient to things like disease or disturbances.

We hope that as we continue to add biodiversity to the reef, we will see more vibrant, busy, and healthy reefs! Come DIVE WITH US and restore a reef with your own two hands! 

Top left: The boulder corals are removed from their trees and placed on trays to head to the reef. Top right: Restoration Associate, Tommy Paige, was happy to use our new tool to drill holes. Bottom left: CRF intern, Cheyenne Carey, with 60 little boulder corals about to start their new journey. Bottom right: Restoration Associate and boulder coral master, Dan Burden, works to outplant his prized boulder corals. 


About the Author

Cheyenne Carey, a native of Massachusetts, got involved with reef restoration while interning with Conservation Diver's Reef Restoration Program in Koh Tao, Thailand, to complete her Master's of Animals and Public Policy. This is also where she found her beloved pup, Ponny.

Since then she has developed a strong interest in continuing in the field of reef restoration. She is excited to have the opportunity to work with CRF as the Reef Restoration Program Intern so she can dive deeper into what it takes to run such a successful restoration program! 

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