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Florida Reef Resilience Program


Building a Better Coral

See how staghorn coral fragments grown in a nursery may recharge declining reefs.

Coral Bleaching

Download a brochure about the Florida Reef Resilience Program (.pdf, 1.96 MB).

Intensive scientific monitoring along the entire Florida reef tract has revealed the need for this protection – and many scientists and users are already willing to support our strategies.

Will you help us continue our work?

Recovering strength quickly – bouncing back – is the definition of word used more and more in science these days: resilient. In Florida, we’ve named an entire program after the idea. The Florida Reef Resilience Program (FRRP) is a collaborative effort among scientists, resource managers, conservation organizations, and reef users to develop strategies for coping with climate change and other stresses on Florida’s coral reefs. The strategies are resilience-based, meaning information about corals that are surviving and thriving – bouncing back after trouble like bleaching – is used to direct protection efforts.

Coral Bleaching Monitoring

Corals often respond to stress by expelling the colorful algae that live within their otherwise clear tissues. This phenomenon is called "coral bleaching" because it reveals the stark white coral skeleton.

During the hottest, sunniest months of the summer, when bleaching is most likely to occur, the Conservancy coordinates a network of scientific divers from public agencies, universities and other non-governmental organizations spanning the region from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet on Florida's east coast. More than 1,600 surveys have been completed since 2005.

Data from these surveys allow scientists to zero in on which corals and reefs have been more or less resilient in years past by measuring coral species diversity, abundance, size and condition.

None of Florida’s reefs are immune to bleaching and coral diseases, the Conservancy’s analysis has shown. However, some areas with larger and more abundant corals also show low levels of bleaching and disease. This intensive scientific monitoring along the entire Florida reef tract points to opportunities for reef protection that can support sustainable uses like commercial and recreational fishing and diving tourism.

Read an interview with Conservancy Scientist Meaghan Johnson about diving among disturbed coral reefs.

Underwater Nurseries Grow Threatened Corals

Staghorn and elkhorn coral were once one of the most abundant corals on Caribbean and Floridian reefs but have suffered catastrophic declines since the late 1970s. Today they are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Due to their importance as a fast-growing reef builder, the Conservancy began working with a Key Largo-partner to grow this species in an underwater nursery to restore them to their former abundance.

The restoration project expanded to include sites in the lower and middle Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas National Park west of Key West, Biscayne National Park and reefs from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Today, we have approximately 30,000 coral colonies in eight nursery locations. In 2012, we began planting the baby corals out on the reefs. Nearly 6,000 nursery corals will be transplanted by the end of the year.

Florida Reef Resilience Program Partners

The Nature Conservancy
Biscayne National Park
Broward County
Dry Tortugas National Park
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida Institute of Technology
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Martin County
Miami-Dade County
Mote Marine Laboratory
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Nova Southeastern University
Palm Beach County
Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of South Florida Institute for Marine Remote Sensing

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