Florida’s reef restoration is just in time for Earth Day

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This year Earth day The theme is “Restore our Earth”, and a good starting point is the rehabilitation of coral reefs in important marine environments, such as the Eastern Dry Rock Sanctuary Preservation Area off Key West, Florida.

NOAA and a number of conservation agencies are starting a three-year project to outplant 60,000 coral fragments reared in a nursery on the Dry Rocks site. It is the first large-scale factory to restore seven varieties of coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“A settlement on this unprecedented scale is one of many immediate actions needed to address the rapid decline of our precious coral reefs,” said Ben Friedman, Acting Administrator of NOAA. a press release yesterday. “The Florida Keys have become a world leader in coral restoration with new techniques to address threats and accelerate coral growth, thanks to an unprecedented collaboration between NOAA, our partners.”

Exterior work is funded by a $ 5 million grant from NOAA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Reef corals grow in nurseries for 6-8 months before being planted at reef sites. Already over 1,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals have been planted, and the target of 7,350 coral plantations by the end of the year seems within reach.

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Scientists believe this reef restoration plan will help Florida’s fragile saltwater ecosystems recover and demonstrate how coral restoration is a viable method to improve the marine environment at all levels. In later stages of the project, students and faculty at the College of the Florida Keys will also help reintroduce thousands of herbivores, such as the Caribbean king crab, to the site to serve as natural grazers that help maintain a healthy ecosystem. . In addition to restoring essential biodiversity on the site, a healthy reef track strengthens the local economy. The Reef Trail in the Keys attracts millions of visitors each year, which represents more than $ 2 billion in economic impact.

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