The overall aim of our project is to restore reefbuilding coral populations using sexual reproduction in the Bahamas. Our effort is part of the Reversing the Decline of Bahamian Coral Reefs program, led by the Perry Institute for Marine Sciences and supported by the Disney Conservation Fund. Additional support for the work is being provided by the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation and Mohamed bin Zayed species conservation fund.
We implement the program locally in cooperation with the Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Further partners are the Shedd Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean, as well as the NOVA Southeastern University. The project will eventually be taken over by national stakeholders for long-term maintenance of coral cover and reef structural complexity. In the meanwhile, the work has just began!
2016, the first workshop led by SECORE about sexual coral restoration was held at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and for the first time elkhorn coral recruits were successfully produced in the Bahamas.
This August, an Acropora Spawning Expedition will take place, supported by the Atlantis Resort on-site, with the aim to collect and raise spawn of elkhorn and staghorn corals, as well as the hybrid of the two.
Spawning times of coral species within the Bahamas are rare. Accordingly, we plan to do a Coral Spawning Cruise Bahamas, together with the Perry Institute for Marine Sciences and the Shedd Aquarium, to document as many as possible spawning times for different coral species in September. Our fearless―and hopefully tireless―diving team will do night dives in shifts to monitor the nightly trysts of corals.
The NOVA Southeastern University, namely Nicole Fogarty and her lab, are likewise part of of our project team. They do research on coral hybrid restoration, which may be more resilient in a changing environment. The famous elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and staghorn coral (A. cervicornis) hybrid, A. prolifera, is relatively abundant in Bahamian reefs. Therefore, to study hybrid restoration is an additional aspect of our joint effort.
photos: Craig Dahlgren, Perry Institute for Marine Sciences