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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 27:243-250 (2015)  -  DOI:

Optimizing the productivity of a coral nursery focused on staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis

Kathryn E. Lohr1,5,*, Sonia Bejarano1, Diego Lirman2, Stephanie Schopmeyer2, Carrie Manfrino3,4 

1Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Little Cayman Research Centre, North Coast Road, Little Cayman, KY3-2501, Cayman Islands
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, FL 33149, USA
3Central Caribbean Marine Institute, PO Box 1461, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
4School of Environmental and Sustainability Sciences, Kean University, 1000 Morris Ave, Union, NJ 07083, USA
5Present address: The University of Florida/IFAS, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, The Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation, 529 Elsberry Rd., Apollo Beach, FL 33572, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The rapid decline of the staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis throughout the Caribbean prompted the development of coral gardening as a management strategy to restore wild stocks. Given that coral gardening relies on propagating corals collected from wild donor colonies, it is imperative to optimize growth within a nursery to reduce dependence on wild collections. This study determined the maximum amount of coral that may be clipped from a colony during propagation without causing mortality or decreased growth. We applied 3 experimental treatments to 12 nursery-reared staghorn corals, in which 25, 50, or 75% of the colony’s total biomass was removed and fragmented to create additional, smaller fragments. Four additional colonies served as unfragmented controls. Treatment had no effect on colony productivity, defined as the ratio of new tissue growth to initial colony size, over 87 d. Similarly, treatment had no effect on the rate at which colonies developed new branches. Results indicate that 75% of the biomass of staghorn colonies may be removed without affecting their growth. We anticipate that our observations will have practical applications for maximizing propagation of staghorn coral within nurseries throughout the wider Caribbean while minimizing the impact of this management measure on remnant wild populations.

KEY WORDS: Staghorn coral · Restoration · Coral gardening · Coral nursery · Fragmentation · Propagation · Caribbean

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Cite this article as: Lohr KE, Bejarano S, Lirman D, Schopmeyer S, Manfrino C (2015) Optimizing the productivity of a coral nursery focused on staghorn coral Acropora cervicornis. Endang Species Res 27:243-250.

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