Featured Image Credit: Tim Calver
By Eva Gruber
Miami Seaquarium engages in some fantastic outreach programs, and one of the best programs partners the Seaquarium with neighboring University of Florida’s premiere marine ecology department. The world-famous Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) conducts cutting edge research on coral reefs, their conservation issues, and solutions towards coral reef restoration.
With its proximity to the coral reefs of the subtropical Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, RSMAS is focusing on the propagation of locally-native staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) which is a threatened species. By creating coral nurseries and studying their conditions and successes, RSMAS is hoping to understand how to create a reliable source of coral colonies for use in restoration activities. This knowledge could then be extended to create coral nurseries around the world, for every coral reef ecosystem is now threatened with imminent destruction. Staghorn coral itself has suffered significant loss with some areas having 95% population loss.
The Rescue a Reef (RAR) Program is focused on investigating exactly what techniques result in the highest productivity and survival rates for staghorn coral, how genetic differences between individual coral colonies impact growth and survival, and what effect do restored corals have on ecosystem health and dynamics? This program began in 2007 with the first coral nursery, and expanded with a second nursery in 2009. So far, RAR has outplanted approximately 600 meters of healthy coral onto local reefs.
By researching the best and most efficient methods of “coral farming” (and other coral propagation techniques), science-based restoration practices can be implemented across Florida, and the rest of the world. The discoveries through this program, supported in part by the Miami Seaquarium, will have resounding implications in this new age of the Anthropocene, where human activities are degrading ecosystems – and especially marine ecosystems – at an astonishing pace. It is of the utmost importance that we counteract these tragic losses with mitigation efforts such as coral propagation. It truly is the least we could do to make things right – not only for ourselves but for the future of the planet and all its inhabitants.
The Miami Seaquarium plays a crucial role in educating and engaging the public in this important research. The par has installed a new exhibit focusing on this research called “Rescue A Reef: Coral Reef Conservation and Restoration”. This exhibit highlights the importance of coral reefs with engaging displays and models. Guests will also be able to see some of the live coral being grown for restoration purposes.