Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A team from the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center will assist the National Park Service in starting a new experiment tracking the growth of the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata.

Corals on a USGS calcification-assessment station in Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Established in 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey’s Coral Assessment Network (USGS-CAN) provides data on coral-growth (calcification) rates throughout the Florida Keys and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Pictured here is one of 30 stations located in Buck Island Reef National Monument. The data document seasonal and spatial patterns in coral growth that correlate with ocean conditions and are used to guide the management and restoration of coral species that have experienced population declines across the region. Shown here, on the left of the block, is the symmetrical brain coral, Pseudodiploria strigosa, and on the right side of the block, is the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Both species are very important in the western Atlantic for creating the reef-crest habitat, the shallowest zone of the reef where waves break, that is essential for shoreline protection. 

Coral reef ecosystems provide many essential ecological and economic services to coastal communities—most famously by providing habitat for fish and a myriad other reef-dwelling species—but arguably more importantly, they protect shorelines and coastal communities from storms by acting as natural breakwaters. The USGS will be conducting new research on the coral reefs in Buck Island Reef National Monument (BIRNM) from March 6th through 12th 2023. The new research was recently funded through the USGS Ecosystems mission area’s National Resource Preservation Program.

Ilsa Kuffner, Anastasios Stathakopoulos, and BJ Reynolds (USGS SPCMSC) will join a team from the National Park Service (NPS) led by Kristen Ewen to start a new experiment using previously installed calcification assessment network sites for a coral-growth experiment that will be performed simultaneously in two other National Parks in Florida: Dry Tortugas and Biscayne. The group will deploy new specimens of the threatened elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) in the experiment for growth monitoring. Elkhorn coral is a critical coral species because it is the only one that builds the wave-breaking reef crest that is important for shoreline protection. The overarching goal of this project is to provide NPS managers with the data and information needed to understand the capacity of this coral to grow and calcify in today’s ocean conditions. The project will provide key information needed to assess the feasibility of the coral restoration strategies being developed by the three National Parks and will provide high-quality science to guide these efforts.

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.