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Aquarius Coral Restoration / Resilience Experiments (ACRRE)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Margaret Miller, NOAA Fisheries
Training: June 2 — 6 2008
Mission: June 9 — 18 2008

Coral rescue and transplantation have been commonly undertaken in cases where they have been damaged or dislodged by human activities or natural events. However, very little is known about the underlying biological reasons why one coral may survive and grow beautifully when transplanted to a reef while another may sicken and/or die. These variations in performance between different source corals are particularly important to understand in the current context of rapid environmental changes in reef environments and our continuing observations of rapid coral loss.

The Aquarius Coral Restoration/Resilience Experiments (ACRREs) are aimed to increase our understanding of why and how some corals may perform much better as transplants than others. Coral fragments from different sources, including healthy wild colonies from nearby reefs, rescued corals from far-away reefs, and corals that have been cultured in aquaria or field nurseries will be transplanted together to a single location, a “common garden”, at the Aquarius Reef Base. Each transplant will be evaluated in many different ways to understand how their genetic or physiological status may determine their ability to thrive in their new home. We hope to continue this experiment over a long time frame so that the resilience of the transplants can be examined during natural disturbances such as warm water bleaching or disease outbreak events that happen episodically.

The results of this study will help scientists and reef managers to plan, permit, and execute coral rescue and transplantation/restoration project more effectively. We will learn what sources of corals can be most successful in enhancing depleted reef populations both in the short term by transplantation, and in the longer term by understanding better what genetic or other biological conditions of the coral aid in their resilience to the changing reef environment.