Historically, the reef surrounding Carysfort Lighthouse was so large and resplendent with elkhorn and staghorn corals, that in 1770 a 28-gun sixth-rate Frigate of the Royal Navy ran aground and gave the reef its namesake.
Since that fateful day in 1770, Carysfort Reef has changed drastically. Human activity has resulted locally in poor water quality, and globally in increasingly warm and more acidic water, which, combined with other stressors, have caused a severe decline in coral cover throughout the Keys. But, thanks to the efforts of Coral Restoration Foundation™, supported by funding from the Ocean Reef Club, Carysfort Reef is making a herculean comeback.
Flash forward to 2018: in this one year alone, the site has been repopulated with 4,346 staghorn and 2,715 elkhorn corals, corals which are healthy and thriving!
With the continued support of Ocean Reef Club, the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is gearing up to outplant 8,500 more corals in 2019. By 2020, the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) aims to have outplanted a total of 30,000 corals at Carysfort Reef. These new outplants will feature the classic Coral Restoration Foundation corals – elkhorn and staghorn – but the organization will be adding two new players to round out the team.
Boulder Corals Returning
In a first for the organization, in 2018, 617 boulder corals have been added to the Carysfort Reef, with great success. As a result, CRF plans on ramping up the numbers of these new species; in the next year they plan to outplant up to 1,500 more to this iconic reef.
The common names of the new species are mountainous star coral and boulder star coral. Unlike branching corals, boulder corals grow into a massive singular “mound”. These species create huge structures, some as large as a VW Beetle. But, as water quality in the Keys has suffered, disease has ravaged their populations. It has now become imperative that Coral Restoration Foundation add boulder corals to their restoration repertoire.
How it’s Done
These “mounding” corals grow very differently from the branching species that the organization has become famous for working with. Through science-driven research and development, Coral Restoration Foundation™ modified their world-renowned Coral Tree™ design to adapt it for growing boulder corals, with new horizontal trays that accommodate these new species.
The site is an excellent example of what restoration goals for the rest of the Keys should look like. High survivorship, healthy corals, and fast growth rates mean this site informs restoration efforts at other sites throughout the Florida Keys. As a result, it was the perfect place to pioneer the outplanting of these new species.
It Takes a Village… or Rather a “Club”
Coral Restoration Foundation would not be able to accomplish the restoration and protection of Florida Keys reefs without a community of support. Ocean Reef Club has been pivotal in this vital effort. Through a generous five-year grant that directly supports the restoration of Carysfort Reef, Ocean Reef Club has demonstrated a genuine investment in the future of this precious ecosystem. CRF has also held its annual gala, Raise the Reef, at Ocean Reef Club for the last two years. This year, on Saturday, April 6, this celebrated event will once again be held at ORC.
Ultimately, the restoration of Carysfort Reef will be an unparalleled demonstration of what can be accomplished when we work together.
Learn more at coralrestoration.org.