SPCMSC scientist leads interagency search for mangrove-coral refugia

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USGS-SPCMSC and FWC researchers collaborate on research in the lower Florida Keys to search for areas where coral colonies are growing on mangrove prop roots or under mangrove canopies.

Christina Kellogg (SPCMSC Research Microbiologist) will be conducting field surveys with Kim Yates (SPCMSC), Ryan Moyer (FWC), and Mary Jacobsen (FWC) in the lower Florida Keys to search for such areas. If found, these rare habitats will have their location mapped, be photographed, and basic environmental parameters will be recorded.

Conservation and management strategies include establishment of marine protected areas with environmental conditions that promote coral resiliency. A non-reef coral refuge from thermal stress and ocean acidification has been identified in the U.S. Virgin Islands where over 30 species of stony corals are thriving under and attached to mangrove prop roots. These corals are less affected by bleaching and disease than their siblings on nearby reefs, and preliminary research suggests this is due to the mangroves providing shade and buffering the local pH. This project, funded through the Mote Protect Our Reef Grant Program, is performing dedicated surveys of targeted mangrove habitats in the Florida Keys to document any existing coral refugia.

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