Experimental elkhorn coral in Dry Tortugas National Park
The U.S. Geological Survey St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center is conducting research to guide the restoration and recovery of the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, in Dry Tortugas National Park and throughout the western Atlantic. Shown here is an elkhorn colony, raised from a fragment donated by the Coral Restoration Foundation, that overgrew the “calcification station” where it was attached for an experiment. The USGS has established these stations, composed of cement blocks fixed to the reef with stainless-steel rods embedded into the reef, throughout the Florida Keys and the U.S. Virgin Islands to do experiments on the growth rates of select coral species important to the process of building coral reefs. Because scientists were unable to get back to the experiment during the COVID-19 pandemic, the corals in Dry Tortugas overgrew the blocks. The scientists plan to leave the corals in place and continue monitoring their growth using a different method as they grow into an elkhorn reef.
Learn more about Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) at USGS.