Ilsa Kuffner, Marine Biologist with the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, will lead a team along with collaborators from Ohio State University (OSU) to the Florida Keys to finish a study on the elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. They will visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and Biscayne National Park to conduct their research.
SPCMSC coral team and Ohio State researchers travel to the Florida Keys to complete coral growth study
The elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, is a threatened species and its survival is critical to reversing coral-reef ecosystem collapse in the western Atlantic. Coral-reef ecosystems provide vital services such as coastal protection from storms, food security from fisheries, and economic returns from tourism. Elkhorn coral populations throughout the Florida Keys have declined precipitously and they are struggling to naturally produce new colonies, so restoration strategies have been implemented such as outplanting nursery-grown corals. Kuffner and her team have transplanted small elkhorn corals of different genetic strains from nurseries to five different locations along the Florida Keys reef tract. After two years of visiting the corals twice a year to photograph, weigh, and measure the size of each, they are now collaborating with Andrea Grottoli’s team at OSU to reveal the final nutritional status of each coral. This research will help inform partners on what factors affect the growth and success of nursery-grown, transplanted corals in various locations throughout the Keys to help make better decisions for coral placement in future restoration efforts.