Coral Outplanting in Dry Tortugas National Park

In June of 2018, I participated in The Nature Conservancy’s week-long annual coral outplanting liveaboard trip in Dry Tortugas National Park in the Gulf of Mexico. During the trip, along with a handful of other scientific divers associated with various organizations, we outplanted over 1,200 staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals onto the reefs of the Park. The Nature Conservancy uses a technique referred to as “coral gardening” where young corals are grown in offshore nurseries and then propagated and outplanted and affixed onto wild reefs using simple tools such as hammers, nails, and zip ties. This is a technique that many organizations have been using all along the Florida Reef Tract to help restore decreasing coral reef presence.

Corals have declined as much as 80-90% in the U.S. and Caribbean since the 1980’s due to rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, disease, increased storm frequency, and pollution. With the right conditions and a little bit of time, the young coral outplants will grow into larger colonies and help bring structure back to the reef. This brings a diversity of fish and sea life as well as ecological and economic benefits to humans on land. Did you know that in coastal cities, like Miami, healthy coral reefs are our first line of defense against big storm events and can reduce incoming wave energy by 97%?!

As a coastal and marine engineering firm, we understand the importance of natural healthy shorelines and always aim to protect, preserve and enhance all-natural marine ecosystems on projects. One of the reasons I enjoy working at Cummins Cederberg is because we encourage the implementation of natural remedies (i.e. marsh grasses for soil erosion, mangroves and corals for shoreline protection, seagrasses for holding submerged substrate) within our engineering designs to promote natural and effective shoreline enhancement measures.

Rebecah Delp is a Project Manager/Marine Scientist at Cummins Cederberg. This trip was recently highlighted in The Nature Conservancy’s Summer 2019 magazine issue (https://www.nature.org/en-us/explore/magazine/magazine-articles/ray-of-hope/). Rebecah also volunteers with the University of Miami’s Rescue a Reef team, a citizen scientist program that implements the same coral gardening technique on the reefs of Miami, FL.

Rebecah DelpCoral Outplanting in Dry Tortugas National Park

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