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CCMI Scientists Study Coral Spawning

09 August 2018, 8:00 AM
Sci/Technology & Environment
radiocayman

CCMI researchers are monitoring the spawning of staghorn coral, which typically occurs 5 – 7 days after the full moon in July, August or September in one mass, broadcast style spawn. “We have been diving every night to try to record the spawning of our nursery-reared staghorn coral as we did last year, but this year we are going one step further by collecting and studying the spawn from groups of coral fragments originating from three different donor colonies,” said CCMI research scientist Paul Maneval.

The team has created tents to collect spawn from a small number of select nursery-reared corals to study the reproductive output of three different genotypes of staghorn coral which represent three very different growth rates- slow, medium, and fast. The corals being studied range from growing at an estimated rate of from 45 to 75 cm per year.

Researchers want to assess and understand if the growth rates have any relationship with the spawning (aka sexual) reproduction of these coral colonies. Are the faster-growing corals growing at the expense of their reproduction? Also, when considering the future of coral nursery and restoration efforts, scientists want to consider how the coral grown in nurseries is impacting the reef, so that their efforts can have the greatest positive impact. For example, if a particular strain of coral is more successful when outplanted, whereas another is really productive when spawning, this information may influence nursery location, design, and usage.

CCMI is innovating all areas of coral reef restoration within the Cayman Islands, supported by Consolidated Water, the Dart Foundation, the Disney Conservation Fund, and the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation. Scientists are experimenting with outplanting location and design as well as detailed 3D mapping to improve survival and success long-term and guide future work. CCMI has established a new, shallow-water coral nursery site to serve as a genetic repository for the 14 different genotypes of staghorn coral which are grown in the nursery. This site is in a lagoon and protected from the storm wave action that can impact deeper sites outside of the barrier reef. It is also the home to elkhorn coral fragments, which are being grown in different treatments to optimize outplanting success. “We are investigating so many different ways of how to improve the long-term success of our coral restoration,” said Dr. Carrie Manfrino, President and Director of CCMI. “Studying the coral spawning, enhancing the diversity of species in our nurseries, and improving outplant survival… these approaches all contribute to the urgent need to safeguard the biodiversity and health of our precious coral reefs.”

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