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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Restoration Destination: The one-stop shop for all things coral reef restoration & the Florida Reef Tract

  • Author(s): Ressa, Thomas
  • et al.

 It is an indisputable fact that coral reefs across the globe are in decline. With typical growth rates of 0.3 to 2 centimeters per year for massive corals, and up to 10 centimeters per year for branching corals, it can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to form (NOAA). The largest coral reef system in the United States, the Florida Reef Tract, is also the third largest barrier reef system in the world – only dwarfed by the Great Barrier Reef of Eastern Australia and the Mesoamerican Reef off the Caribbean coast of Central America. These ecosystems in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean were once dominated by large branching coral species such as Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata, known better by their common names - Staghorn and Elkhorn respectively, both of which now find themselves listed as threatened under to the Endangered Species Act (Federal Register). However, due to a number of threats, populations of these coral species have declined precipitously and resulted in the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and its partners to launch Mission: Iconic Reefs - one of the largest collaborative efforts on the planet to restore reefs along the Florida Reef Tract. As a result, there are a lot of questions surrounding the efficacy of coral reef restoration and the efforts taking place - mainly how the goal to restore such a large, devastated ecosystem will be achieved amidst hot topics like climate change and habitat destruction. This overarching goal of this project is to consolidate the latest available information surrounding coral reef restoration by providing a framework for practices such as micro-fragmentation, sexual reproduction and other research and restoration efforts occurring throughout the Florida Keys and beyond.

This report is accompanied by a website that I created – Restoration Destination – a platform designed to provide viewers with an introduction to coral restoration efforts in the Florida Keys, how the Mission: Iconic Reefs effort plans to tackle the challenges and present ways for the community to get involved.

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