Ocean stewards partner to enhance Caribbean corals

January 4, 2021 9:02 am

[UPDATED] A coral colonization partnership between Mote Marine Laboratory and the Nature Conservancy that is targeting depleted reefs in the Florida Keys aims to expand to the U.S. Virgin Islands and at least three Caribbean nations, including Cuba.

The goals of the initiative, according to Sarasota-based Mote and the worldwide Nature Conservancy, is “to restore more than one million corals across the region’s reefs, share science-based coral restoration and conservation practices among U.S. and international Caribbean partners, and construct necessary facilities such as coral gene banks” to save genetically diverse corals and help researchers find strains resilient to environmental change.

CoralreefKeys.jpgCorals in Florida and the Caribbean, including the endangered Staghorn, have declined by 50 to 80 percent in some areas in the past three decades, according to Mote.

Technology that grows coral fragments that are transplanted to reefs was pioneered in the Keys by Ken Nedimyer of the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo.

“We are accountable to future generations for securing the very resources that have helped us and generations before us to thrive,” said Dr. Luis Solórzano, head of The Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Program.

Mote opened a new coral research facility in Summerland Key in early 2017. Mote and the Conservancy also are expected to build a permanent facility in St. Croix to enhance the 20-year initiative.

By 2021, according to Mote, a “coral gene bank of threatened Caribbean and Florida coral species will be established,” partly as “insurance” against catastrophic events, such as widespread bleaching, diseases and oil spills.

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