Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy are teaming up to restore coral reefs at unprecedented scales throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. The collaboration officially began Sept. 12, 2016 in Miami, with the signing of a one-year memorandum of understanding (MOU), enabling the first steps in a proposed 15-year initiative of joint coral reef restoration.
The organizations plan to restore more than one million corals across the region’s reefs, share coral restoration and conservation best practices among U.S. and international Caribbean partners, and build research facilities to house corals. The new facilities will help researcher study corals closely in aquaria while identifying genetic strains resilient to resilient to environmental change, and can act as coral gene banks to preserve genetically diverse coral tissue
The Sept. 12 MOU will officially launch one year of planning and preparation, which will include growing 50,000 coral fragments.
Coral reefs are important habitat for juvenile fish and provide environmental services such as shoreline protection for coastal communities. Our oceans are facing increasing decline due to ocean acidification, rising ocean temperatures, and coastal development all due to stressors associated with population growth. Coral cover in Florida and the Caribbean has declined by 50 to 80 percent in some areas in just the last three decades, making this initiative even more important.
Coral cover in Florida and the Caribbean has declined by 50 to 80 percent in some areas in just the last three decades, making this initiative even more important.
Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit marine science and education institution which employ coral fragging in captivity. Mote has been successful in re-growing staghorn acropora, porites, and orbicella fragments in aquaria and have already successfully replanted 20,000 fragments onto depleted reefs in the Florida Keys.
The Nature Conservancy is an international conservation organization working to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. Throughout the Caribbean and Florida, the Conservancy has worked with their partners to advance science-based conservation actions that include establishing coral nurseries and planting over 15,000 coral colonies from the nurseries onto reefs over the past 12 years in the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas and U.S. Virgin Islands. These coral nurseries span from the Florida Keys all the way down to Grenada and are part of the largest restoration project of its kind.
By combining forces, two of the world’s foremost independent marine research and conservation organizations will launch an innovative, international coral reef restoration initiative, giving Caribbean and Florida Keys coral reefs a better chance to survive and deliver ecological and economic benefits to future generations.
Key goals for the one-year agreement and onward
- Now through September 2017: The one-year MOU will help Mote and Conservancy staff secure additional coral restoration permits, plan their reef restoration initiative for the coming years, fundraise collaboratively and grow approximately 50,000 fragments of various coral species at Mote’s facilities in the Florida Keys and the Conservancy’s facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Partners will focus on selecting coral strains resilient to increasing water temperatures, ocean acidification and disease. In early 2017, Mote will enhance these efforts by opening its new coral reef research facility on Summerland Key.
- By 2020: A networked coral gene bank of threatened Caribbean and Florida coral species will be established and accumulate genetically identified coral tissue samples as “insurance” against climate change and near-term catastrophic events for reefs, such as widespread bleaching, diseases and oil spills. Efforts will include enhancing or expanding coral nurseries and adding gene banks to Mote and Conservancy facilities in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, respectively. Mote and Conservancy staff will forge and advance international partnerships for upcoming coral restoration in priority locations including Cuba and the Bahamas.
- By 2025: Mote and Conservancy staff plan to work with U.S. and international partners to restore corals at unprecedented rates for the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Goals include planting one million coral fragments in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys and 500,000 in at least three other Caribbean nations. The partners aim to establish a new, permanent coral restoration facility in St. Croix to be jointly operated by Conservancy and Mote staff. They will also complete training of key local personnel working at U.S. and international coral restoration areas, and in the process, disseminate state-of-the-art coral science, conservation and restoration practices around the Caribbean. [Mote Marine Labratories]
Support coral reef restoration and research
- Donate to Mote: Please contact Erin Kabinoff at 941-388-4441, ext. 415 [email protected]
- Donate to The Nature Conservancy in Caribbean: Please contact Lisa Price at 307-690-0920 or visit: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/caribbean/giving/index.htm
- Donate to The Nature Conservancy in Florida: Please call 407-682-3664 or visit: support.nature.org/florida