The Nature Conservancy Coral Tree Nursery
This week, scientists from The Nature Conservancy will be transplanting nursery-grown staghorn corals to the reef around the Underwater Observation Tower at Coral World. The Nature Conservancy maintains six coral nurseries in the USVI containing both staghorn and elkhorn corals. Each year, corals from these nurseries are transplanted to local reefs around St. Thomas and St. Croix. For the past two years, a TNC coral “tree” (floating nursery structure) has been anchored just outside the tower at Coral World. This tree demonstrates how coral nurseries work and is used to inform Coral World visitors about the efforts of coral restoration. Conservancy scientists search for fragments of corals broken through natural processes. These corals are rescued and then multiplied within an underwater nursery. An individual coral can spend anywhere from a few months to a few years in the nursery before it is transplanted to a carefully selected reef site.
Staghorn corals from the “Coral World” tree will be outplanted to the reef surrounding the tower. The remaining coral tissue, still on the tree, will continue to grow and produce large colonies to be transplanted next year. The new fragments will be attached to the reef using a non-toxic, marine epoxy that the coral will eventually over grow, providing an even stronger anchor to the reef. These outplanted corals will provide habitat for fish and other marine creatures and will mature and reproduce – helping to generate new staghorn corals for neighboring reefs.
This season, TNC has transplanted over 2,500 corals to reefs around St. Thomas and St. Croix. The success and survivorship of the transplanted corals remains high, but planting corals is only one piece of the puzzle.
Over the past four decades, Caribbean coral reefs have undergone drastic declines because of a number of man-made threats (pollution, run-off, over-fishing, etc.). The scientists at The Nature Conservancy’s Coral
Restoration Program know that OUR reefs are not far-gone and are optimistic about their results so far. WE can help to bring them back by reducing those threats that we can control while actively rescuing, multiplying, and transplanting important species back to local reefs.
How can you help? Do your part. Everything that we do on land impacts the health of our waters and reefs as well as a number of other coastal and marine habitats and organisms. Clean near shore lands lead to clean seas.
Support Marine Protected Areas. MPAs provide for not just healthy coral reefs and are also important fish habitat. Get involved. The Conservancy and a number of other organizations are working to protect our reefs “for nature AND for people” and we can benefit from your support. For ways that you can volunteer, please contact Lisa Kirkley at [email protected] or Kemit-Amon Lewis at [email protected].