The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium (LLPA) dive team recently traveled to Key Largo, Florida, to help restore coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract, through a collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation™ (CRF).
About Coral Restoration Foundation
CRF is the largest coral reef restoration organization in the world. We were founded in response to the widespread loss of the dominant coral species on the Florida Reef Tract. The Coral Restoration Foundation is headquartered in Tavernier, Florida, with international chapters in Bonaire and Curacao.
“We’re very excited to have this opportunity to help restore coral in the ocean. Coral reef systems support the health and well-being of the majority of marine life in our salt water habitats at the Aquarium and worldwide. We want to help preserve these critical habitats through active conservation efforts,” said Sean Hopewell, LLPA Dive Program Manager.”
Since the 1970s, the Florida Reef Tract has lost over 90 percent of the populations of these important coral species. CRF has developed an extensive system of Coral Tree Nurseries™ located offshore in the Florida Keys, where coral fragments are hung for six to nine months to grow into colonies. Those colonies are then outplanted to selected reef restoration sites to help reefs recover.
Rainforests of the Seas
Coral reefs are known as the “rainforests of the seas,” because they support thousands of different species. They also provide critical coastal protection from storm surges, food and medicine for humans, and tourism benefits for communities around the world. Coral faces many threats including overfishing, pollution, and climate change, which leads to coral bleaching.
Hopewell, Michael Ashcroft, Senior Saltwater Aquarist, and three LLPA volunteer divers, Jim Holbrook, Mark Romero, and Elsa Schmidtke, were part of the expedition to help restore coral between September 3 – 7. During the trip, the divers cleaned nursery trees, outplanted over 140 staghorn coral fragments onto “Pickle’s Reef,” and fabricated and replaced three nursery trees off the Key Largo coast.
Coral restoration is a continued conservation focus for LLPA. The Aquarium is also exploring opportunities to dedicate portions of the forthcoming Science Learning Center to coral propagation.