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Stony Coral Recruitment Patterns to Reefs Physically Damaged by Ship Groundings

Grant Winners

  • Jose Lopez, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center
  • Alison Moulding, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center


  • Richard Dodge, Ph.D. – Oceanographic Center


Award Winners

Scleractinian corals face a number of environmental stress factors, among which ship groundings are considered to be one of the most physically damaging. In particular, the coral reefs located near Port Everglades in Broward County, Florida have been repeatedly affected by ship groundings due to their close proximity to a designated anchorage area. In 2004, at least 30,000 m2 of reef was damaged by the groundings of two large cargo ships, the Eastwind and Federal Pescadores. Imperative to natural recovery is the recruitment of juvenile corals. However, natural recovery of damaged sites, particularly due to ship groundings, has not been well studied. The present project was designed to measure any possible differences of scleractinian coral recruitment patterns (density, diversity and richness) at these injured sites compared to undamaged reef sites (control sites). Coral recruitment patterns will be measured utilizing unglazed ceramic tiles deployed for a period of one year (February 2007 to February 2008) at five reefs including: two control sites, one high coral cover site and the two ships grounding sites. Morphometrics as well as multiple genetic markers (ITS region, CO1 and fl-tubulin genes) will be used to identify the coral recruits. It is hypothesized that the final results will reveal significant differences in recruitment rates at the ship grounding sites in comparison to the control sites. This study will increase understanding of the potential for natural coral recovery after acute physical damage and will test the applicability of genetic markers in the identification of coral recruits.

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