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United States

Carysfort Reef


Conservation benefit: Replanting and restoration of coral reef over five years.

Date Approved: 05.2016


This project protects ocean ecosystems, making coastal communities more economically and physically secure in the face of climate change.

Forty years ago, North Carysfort Reef, near Key Largo, was a model of a healthy reef ecosystem and abundant coral growth. Since then, however, it has lost 99% of its coral cover. The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), a Florida nonprofit organization, has refined coral-growing and transplanting techniques over the last decade. It is now successfully propagating corals in local nurseries and planting them to the reef.

Seacology’s grant will help finance CRF’s five-year plan to replant North Carysfort Reef. The project seeks to restore two critical reef-building corals, staghorn and elkhorn, to the levels of 50 years ago in terms of density, area covered, and historical proportions. The first stage of the project will create an easily accessible example of what the restored reef will look like. Later, CRF will replant more of the reef. The ultimate goal is to create a self-sufficient reef with spawning coral, and an international model of reef restoration.

Project Updates

May 2018

Seacology’s role in this ongoing five-year reef restoration project is now complete. Since 2016, our partner, the Ocean Reef Conservation Foundation, has grown and outplanted more than 3,100 staghorn and elkhorn corals at Carysfort Reef.

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November 2017

As Hurricane Irma slammed Florida in September, we wondered how it would affect not only the people there, but also the natural environment, including the Carysfort reef and coral nursery. The good news is that the nursery came through very well, and the corals already planted at Carysfort Reef did reasonably well. Here’s the report from our project partners: “On the fore reef, the elkhorn corals are mostly still there and will recover. We haven’t planted too many elkhorn inside the reef yet. The staghorn coral on the fore reef got a haircut, but many of the corals are still there, most of the bases are still there, and we expect most of the survivors to recover. The staghorn corals planted inside the reef did fine, with minimal losses.”

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May 2017

So far in 2017, 211 staghorn and 20 elkhorn corals have been planted on the reef. As corals grow, predation, disease, bleaching, and competition from algae and other organisms take a toll. Minimal amounts of predation, disease, and competition have been observed on Carysfort Reef, and at the one-year mark, survivorship was still high at 86.1%.

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December 2016

Our NGO partner reports that in 2016, the nursery expanded to 104 “trees” on which to grow corals, and more than 3,100 staghorn and elkhorn (two critical reef-building corals) were outplanted at Carysfort Reef. After three months, 93.7% of the staghorn and 91.4% of the elkhorn outplants were still thriving, the second-highest survivorship rates of eight sites in the region.

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