We grow and outplant endangered species of coral to restore reef sites to a healthy state. Our innovative methods are cost-effective and scalable.
How do we know that our methods are working?
Our outplanted corals are now spawning naturally,
kick-starting the reefs’ natural processes of recovery.
PROPAGATION CORAL OUTPLANTING GENETIC DIVERSITY NATURAL RECOVERY
Guided by Nature
Corals can grow and reproduce both sexually, through spawning, and asexually, through a process called "fragmentation". If conditions are favorable, and a branch breaks away and falls onto the reef, it can reattach and begin to grow a new colony.
We have developed a way of exploiting this natural process of fragmentation to allow us to efficiently propagate, or "farm", huge numbers of corals.
We fragment coral colonies into smaller, finger-sized pieces. These smaller fragments are then hung on Coral Trees™ - a simple PVC design that we developed, that allows us to grow huge numbers of coral fragments in large, offshore nurseries.
CORAL TREE NURSERIES
The Coral Trees are tethered to the ocean floor and buoyed with a subsurface float. Coral fragments are hung from the branches of the tree using monofilament line. Each tree can hold up to 100 coral fragments, though we normally hang them with just 60, to give each fragment space to grow.
The tree floats in the water column and is able to move with storm-generated wave surges. This dissipates wave energy preventing damage to the tree structure or the corals themselves.
We currently have 7 offshore Coral Tree Nurseries in South Florida from Carysfort Reef to Key West, the largest of which covers an acre-and-a-half. These nurseries are home to 11 different coral species.
Suspended in the nutrient-and-sunlight-rich water column, the fragments of corals on our Coral Trees grow into colonies that are large enough to be outplanted to the reef in just six to nine months.
After they have reached a substantial size, they are tagged and taken to a carefully selected reef restoration site where they are attached directly to the reef using a two-part marine epoxy. Since 2012, we have outplanted more than 120,000 corals out onto the Florida Reef Tract.
In collaboration with academic institutions, and with the help of recreational divers, we monitor the condition of these coral outplants.
THE CORALS IN OUR NURSERIES
ACROPORIDS STAR CORALS PILLAR OTHERS
Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) is a branching, reef-building hard coral that was previously dominant in the Caribbean.
In 2006, this species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Staghorn, along with other hard corals, provide critical structural complexity on the reef, and vital habitat for marine life.
EXPLORE THE LARGEST
CORAL TREE NURSERY IN THE WORLD!
Click on the interactive map below to digitally DIVE IN to the Coral Restoration Foundation™ Tavernier Coral Tree Nursery.
Learn more about each extraordinary section of this nursery, which covers 1.5 acres of seafloor! From the production sections to the genetic bank, and the rubble piles (which are more interesting than you might think!), this nursery is a unique resource. There is nowhere like it on the planet.
This awesome map was created by CRF™ Intern, Laurel Bicker during her time with us in the summer semester of 2019.
We are currently working with 303 coral genotypes across 11 species.
In order for restoration efforts to be successful in the long term, it is essential that the corals we outplant are genetically diverse.
Our nurseries have now become a vital repository of genetic diversity for corals whose populations are in a spiral of decline - our genetic ark comprises the world's largest genetic "bank" of corals. Some of these genotypes can now only be found within our genetic bank, as they have unfortunately been lost in the wild.
We have exhaustive information on almost all of our coral species including genotypes, collection location, phenotypic observations from within our nurseries, locations within nurseries, and genetic sequencing data.
In the coming year, it is our goal to sequence every coral and make this information publicly accessible through a genetic database that will be used as the focal point for all genetically conscious coral restoration.
Spawning in the wild
Our outplanted coral thickets are now spawning naturally. This is evidence that our methods are working, and that with a little assistance, the reefs will eventually be able to recover on their own.
Scientists from around the country visit our nurseries and restoration sites during annual spawning events to conduct research on this little-studied phenomenon.
Scroll down to discover how we made history, when our nursery-raised and outplanted corals became the first to be documented as spawning in the wild…
We are now actively working to fully-restore 8 reef sites along the
Florida Reef Tract.
If you ever dive or snorkel on any of these sites, as a recreational diver, you can help us by collecting simple data about the health of our outplanted corals and restoration sites as a
Coral Restoration Foundation™ Citizen Scientist!