Efforts in the restoration of Caribbean staghorn corals in Florida and Puerto Rico have proved successful, reports a new study published in the Coral Reefs journal.
Since the 1980s, staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) populations in the Caribbean have declined by as much as 90 percent. This coral species was listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006 in an attempt to conserve and protect it.
Researchers have been engaging in “coral gardening,” in which coral populations are restored through the planting of laboratory-raised fragments on degraded reefs. Based on the data collected over the initial two years, their efforts are having a positive impact on the Caribbean reefs.
"Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective," said lead author coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
The study also showed that despite having tissue removed (to propagate new coral in the laboratory), donor colonies do not suffer excess damage.
Describing coral restoration programs as essential to coral conservation, co-author Diego Lirman, UM Rosenstiel School professor of marine biology and ecology, said, "Our findings provide the necessary scientific benchmarks to evaluate restoration progress moving forward."