Establishing a coral nursery in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

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Activity Dates: June 7-12, 2014

With funding from the Atlantis Blue Project, Dr. Craig Dahlgren (research consultant), Krista Sherman (The Bahamas National Trust) and Felicity Burrows (The Nature Conservancy) worked together to establish a coral nursery in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP). The team stayed in Staniel Cay and travelled back and forth to the ECLSP. Craig and team members collected throughout the Exumas, Acropora coral fragments that were broken off and resting on the seafloor. Dr. Dahlgren observed very low populations of Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) at sites that were assessed 10-15 years ago when populations were abundant.  This confirmed the need to restore Staghorn populations at suitable restoration sites. However other species of Acropora such as Elkhorn (A. palmata) and A. prolifera were also collected.

The team scouted appropriate sites to set up the coral nursery and, assembled mooring lines and buoys using heavy duty anchor screws. The site selected to establish the coral nursery is near Waderick Wells. Mooring buoys were then transported and deployed at the coral nursery site that was identified.

The type of nursery used consists of monofilament lines and, is referred to as a “line nursery”. Krista and Felicity were responsible for assembling the lines needed to support the coral fragments. This involved cutting monofilament lines in 10m length and separating sections on the line by crimps, 25cm apart. Clips were also prepared and thin lines were placed at the end of each clip to support individual fragments. Color codes using beads were used to identify type, location collected, parent colony, etc. At least 2-3 coral fragments were placed between each 10cm mark along the monofilament line. In total there were 7 lines that were assembled.

The lines that were prepared to support the fragments were then installed at the selected coral nursery site. Coral fragments were then placed on the monofilament lines. The total water depth in which the nursery was set up is 50feet. The depth in which the lines are floating within the water column however is approximately 25feet. The buoys that support the monofilament lines were placed approximately 10 feet below the surface of the water.

Overall there were 66 pieces of Elkhorn, 72 pieces of Staghorn and 38 pieces of A. prolifera placed within the line nursery.

Stay tune as we monitor the coral nursery progress….