Coral reefs of the Florida Keys are unique national treasures. In general, reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor but support about 25 percent of marine life. However, reefs around the world are declining due to climate change, ocean acidification, coral disease, overfishing and other stressors. In some areas of Florida and the Caribbean, coral cover has declined by 50-80 percent in just the last three decades.

We are investigating potential strategies to help reverse these declines in our lifetime. In particular, we developed a micro-fragmentation and fusion method to speed the growth of brain, boulder and star corals — crucial reef-building species known for their slow growth in the wild.

At the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration on Summerland Key, Florida, we raise and study more than 20 species of hard corals, using fragments “rescued”by NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary following boat groundings and other disturbances. Our broodstock reserve facility maintains optimal light and water chemistry conditions to produce thousands of coral fragments for reef restoration and conduct studies to determine optimal size, shape and season for planting fragments onto depleted reefs. We are investigating how to optimize restoration for the warmer, more acidic oceans expected in our future.

Our colleagues in Mote’s Coral Reef Monitoring & Assessment Program maintain an underwater nursery growing staghorn corals, a threatened branching coral species that grows relatively quickly. Together, our programs have planted more than 43,000 corals onto depleted reefs in the Florida Keys.

Science-based reef restoration is central to our Florida Keys Coral Disease Response & Restoration Initiative, which aims to help coral reefs recover from serious challenges such as the unprecedented outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease affectng the Florida Reef Tract in recent years. Mote is co-leading a Restoration Trials Team within the multi-partner response to the disease outbreak. Read about the important role of restoration for the future of Florida's reefs in this 2019 article.

Mote's coral reef restoration efforts are made possible through collaboration with partners such as NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and others.

Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration hosts the work of multiple Mote scientists and our collaborators from around the world.

  • To support Mote's coral reef research and restoration with a donation, please contact Mote's Director of Development, Andria Piekarz, apiekarz@mote.org, 941-388-4441, ext. 352.
  • For Mote internship opportunities with multiple programs and campuses, visit: mote.org/internship.
  • To volunteer for Mote's Coral Reef Restoration Program, please fill out this form.

 

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