Launch for New Reef Restoration Initiative

Published 2016-09-20

Photo: Nature Conservancy

On September 12, 2016, the Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy signed a one-year memorandum of understanding initiating the first steps of a 15-year partnership to restore and conserve coral reefs at an unprecedented scale. The goal of this collaboration is to restore over one million corals across Florida and Caribbean reefs while building conservation solutions with multiple partners and setting up the infrastructure for coral gene banks.

Mote Marine Laboratory, located Florida, is an independent nonprofit marine science and education institution with five campuses stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Researchers and students with Mote have already developed methods to grow several types of corals in restoration facilities and out-plant them to damaged, stressed reefs in the area. Groups are currently working at Mote on methods to accelerate reef restoration and identify staghorn coral strains that are resistant to stressful conditions.

In response to the immediate need to develop science-based solutions to the problems facing coral reefs, Mote and the Nature Conservancy have partnered to expand coral restoration efforts and support scientific research. The Nature Conservancy is active in the Caribbean and Florida with partners applying coral conservation solutions in nurseries in the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, Grenada, and the US Virgin Islands.

Key goals for the one-year agreement and onward (as released by Mote Marine Laboratory 12 September 2016):

• Now through September 2017: The one-year MOU will help Mote and Conservancy staff secure additional coral restoration permits, plan their reef restoration initiative for the coming years, fundraise collaboratively and grow approximately 50,000 fragments of various coral species at Mote’s facilities in the Florida Keys and the Conservancy’s facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Partners will focus on selecting coral strains resilient to increasing water temperatures, ocean acidification and disease. In early 2017, Mote will enhance these efforts by opening its new coral reef research facility on Summerland Key.

• By 2020: A networked coral gene bank of threatened Caribbean and Florida coral species will be established and accumulate genetically identified coral tissue samples as “insurance” against climate change and near-term catastrophic events for reefs, such as widespread bleaching, diseases and oil spills. Efforts will include enhancing or expanding coral nurseries and adding gene banks to Mote and Conservancy facilities in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands, respectively. Mote and Conservancy staff will forge and advance international partnerships for upcoming coral restoration in priority locations including Cuba and the Bahamas.

• By 2025: Mote and Conservancy staff plan to work with U.S. and international partners to restore corals at unprecedented rates for the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. Goals include planting one million coral fragments in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys and 500,000 in at least three other Caribbean nations. The partners aim to establish a new, permanent coral restoration facility in St. Croix to be jointly operated by Conservancy and Mote staff. They will also complete training of key local personnel working at U.S. and international coral restoration areas, and in the process, disseminate state-of-the-art coral science, conservation and restoration practices around the Caribbean.

For more information on this partnership between the Mote Marine Laboratory and the Nature Conservancy, visit https://mote.org/ and http://www.nature.org/.