Master of Science (M.S.)
Degree Granting Department
Christopher D. Stallings, Ph.D.
Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.
Stephanie Schopmeyer, M.S.
Rob Ruzicka, M.S.
coral outplanting, reef, coral enhancement, long-term monitoring, acroporid, coral transplantation, linear extension
The degradation of coral reefs due to natural and anthropogenic stressors has resulted in the expansion of coral restoration projects worldwide. In the Caribbean region, most restoration efforts focus on outplanting Acropora cervicornis, once a dominant branching coral, now found predominantly in spatially isolated populations. Thousands of A. cervicornis colonies are propagated within nurseries and outplanted onto degraded reefs every year. However, monitoring the long-term growth and survival of outplanted corals has been limited by financial, physical, and temporal constraints. In the current study, we assessed the long-term success of A. cervicornis restoration by determining the relationship between current populations and restoration effort. We surveyed coral demographics at 11 reefs in the upper Florida Keys that represented a gradient of restoration effort, defined by the total number of outplants, number of outplanting years, and time since last outplant. In addition to restoration effort, we investigated how past and present ecological factors of benthic cover and coral community composition affected restoration success. We found there was a negative relationship between the amount of live tissue and time since last restoration effort, suggesting that long-term survival of outplants was low. These results indicate that continuous restoration effort, likely on at least an annual basis, would be required to create lasting effects and promote success of restoration for A. cervicornis in the region. We also found a positive relationship between the amount of live tissue and pre-restoration coral density, indicating that areas that supported dense populations of corals may be more likely to experience restoration success. Since coral restoration will likely continue to be an intensively used practice to mitigate coral loss, this study provides valuable information on the long-term fate of outplants and guidance for future restoration efforts.
Scholar Commons Citation
Boisvert, Tiffany S., "Continuous Effort Required to Maintain Populations of Outplanted Acropora cervicornis in the Florida Reef Tract, USA" (2022). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.