Slideshow: Restoring Coral Reefs
Slideshow: Restoring Coral Reefs

Slideshow: Restoring Coral Reefs

By growing mountainous star corals in the lab and outplanting them to dying reefs, we were able to grow sexually mature corals that could help reef recovery.

Hanna R. Koch, Erinn Muller, and Michael P. Crosby
Feb 1, 2021

ABOVE: Mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) ready to spawn
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY

Coral reefs around the world have been in decline for decades. Since the 1960s, for example, Florida’s Coral Reef, has lost more than 90 percent of its corals. Recently, researchers have begun to outplant nursery-grown corals in an attempt to restore the reef. Applying a variation of this approach to the slow-growing, reef-supporting mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata), we and our colleagues at Mote Marine Laboratory in the Florida Keys were able to achieve sexually mature corals that spawned in just five years.

Mountainous star corals are grown at Mote and then outplanted to Florida reefs that suffer from disease, bleaching, or other stressors. 
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY
In 2014, we planted 20 mountainous star coral fragments in an array at Looe Key, Florida (left). Within just two years, those fragments fused into a single colony (right) as large as a naturally occurring colony that is several decades old. 
MOTE MARINE LABORATORY
In July 2020, we inspected the outplanted O. faveolata visually and used an underwater hand drill to extract small core samples, which revealed strings of developed pink-orange eggs and ribbons of sperm.
HANNA KOCH, MOTE MARINE LABORATORY
A couple of weeks later, the corals spawned, broadcasting the gametes into the ocean to produce the next generation of corals.
HANNA KOCH, MOTE MARINE LABORATORY

Read the full story.

Hanna R. Koch is a Mote Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration in Summerland Key, Florida. Mote Senior Scientist Erinn Muller is Manager of both the Coral Health & Disease Research Program and the Coral Restoration Program. Michael P. Crosby is a Senior Scientist and the president & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.