Coral Restoration Project

Coral World is proud to be a coral nursery demonstration site for the Nature Conservancy’s Coral Restoration Program.

The problem:

Since the 1980s, a number of natural and manmade stressors have led to the population decline of Elkhorn (acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) corals throughout the Caribbean. These stressors include diseases, hurricanes, increased predation, bleaching, and algal overgrowth as well as direct and indirect human impacts. As a result, Elkhorn and Staghorn corals are listed as threatened and protected federally under the United States Endangered Species Act as well through local law.

Part of the solution:

In 2009, The Nature Conservancy received funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build and maintain Elkhorn and Staghorn coral nurseries in Florida and the United States Virgin Islands. The goal of this project is to enhance coral populations by growing Elkhorn and Staghorn corals in seafloor nurseries and then transplanting nursery grown coral fragments to depleted reef sites.

Locally, coral nurseries have been built at two St Croix and two St Thomas sites. Conservancy scientists collect “fragments of opportunity”, which are fragments broken by natural process (storms, high wave action), that are further fragmented and grown in nurseries. The nurseries are maintained weekly to remove coral predators and to prevent the overgrowth of algae, which compete against the corals for space. To date, the Nature Conservancy has raised over 3,000 corals in the Virgin Island nurseries and out planted over 1,000 corals onto local reefs. By increasing the abundance and the genetic diversity at each site, the hope is to also assist in the recovery of these threatened species.

Our hope is that the demonstration site will engage local residents, especially school children, and visitors in the Coral Restoration Program.