Mote Marine Laboratory launches coral restoration project in Key West, Florida

On June 13, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory launched a coral restoration project at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, Florida with a goal of creating a publicly accessible coral restoration site at the State Park while demonstrating the techniques of current restoration strategies happening at Mote.

Throughout the day, scientists and volunteers planted about 200 live coral fragments in the waters off Key West’s Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Scientists hope to plant about 5,500 corals by the end of July.

Within a couple of years, the coral fragments that were planted today will grow into each other and grow into a living reef that is beautiful for people to enjoy as a snorkel trail and so it can help prevent erosion of this beautiful beach,Dr. David Vaughan, Executive Director of Mote’s Florida Keys campus.

To restore coral reefs at the State Park, Mote scientists employed their cutting-edge reef-building technique called “re-skinning,” which enables small fragments of boulder corals such as brain, mountainous star coral and great star coral from Mote’s Summerland Key coral nursery to rapidly fuse back together to form new coral heads over the dead skeletons of depleted reefs.

Coral reefs are ecologically and economically important. Coral reef ecosystems provide critical habitat for a wide range of fish and invertebrates (crab, shrimp, lobster).

Ecologically, they are essential for many species that rely on their habitat for food, shelter and breeding. Coral reefs also provide protection for our shorelines during tropical storms and hurricanes due to their massive structures.

Economically, coral reefs support many species that are important for recreational and commercial interests and they provide recreational activities including diving and snorkeling.

In southeast Florida alone, coral reefs are estimated to value $8.5 billion and generate over 70,000 jobs.

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