New Experimental Tool Has the Potential to Improve Restoration Efforts for Coral Reefs

To help improve the long term survival of nursery raised staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), Ruben van Hooidonk, a coral scientist with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies has developed a new experimental mapping tool that ranks suitable outplant locations. There are currently at least seven coral nurseries in Florida that cultivate staghorn coral,  representing one of the best opportunities to maintain resilient populations of this species.

The tool, which can be viewed on Google Earth Pro, ranks outplant locations based on their vulnerability to environmental changes.   It maps locations  that are suitable for outplanting based on five conditions, including heat stress, resiliency potential, depth, water clarity (turbidity), and projected bleaching stress, and combines these variables into one outplanting source.

“Raising and outplanting corals can cost millions of dollars. This tool is designed to help guide outplanting strategies for nursery raised staghorn coral in order to maximize long term survivorship,” said van Hooidonk. “This could increase the effectiveness of the nurseries and promote staghorn coral in the Florida Reef Tract.”

Ruben van Hooidonk, Coral Scientist at AOML
Screenshot of the tool showing the outplanting score layer around Key Largo, Florida