New Coral Park To Grow Off Key West
Coral reefs have suffered major declines over recent decades. But one bright spot in marine science is the newfound ability to grow corals from fragments in coral nurseries.
Mote Marine Lab has been a leader in that field, working from its Tropical Research Laboratoryon Summerland Key. It grows staghorn corals at its offshore nursery, near Looe Key, and reef-building corals at the lab facility.
They start with tiny fragments of just a few polyps.
"They will expand to a size that probably would take them, in the wild, from 15 to 50 years," said Jason Wolf, Mote's community officer for the Keys. "And we can do it in two."
Now Mote plans to transplant thousands of its homegrown corals to waters just offshore of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West. That way, snorkelers who might not be up for a trip out to the reef can see them easily.
"We've lost more than 50 percent of our coral coverage here in the Keys, some species seeing losses of more than 95 percent," Wolf said. "Especially the staghorn, which was the most indigenous coral here in the Keys."
The nursery-grown corals are expected to thrive because their parents are selected from the hardy specimens that have already made it this far.
"We don't do anything to them. We don't give them steroids or monster drinks or whatever it is," Wolf said. We simply give them the opportunity to survive."
The project will include 5,000 pieces of brain, boulder and star coral — known as "reef-building" corals — and 500 pieces of staghorn coral, Wolf said.
The $248,000 project is being paid for by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, proceeds from the Protect Our Reef license plate program and local donors. Transplanting is expected to start in November.
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