The UK’s Horniman Museum and Gardens has teamed up with the Florida Aquarium to further its ground-breaking work on coral reef restoration.
In 2013, researchers at the Horniman Aquarium pioneered a technique for predictably inducing coral to spawn in its laboratory.
Project Coral hopes to use this expertise to reverse the accelerating decline of coral species worldwide. Climate change and pollution are among the causes of devastating coral bleaching events that are killing coral on an unprecendented scale.
Joining forces with the Florida Aquarium is a major step towards planting the lab-grown coral fragments to coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract.
According to the museum, Keri O’Neil, The Florida Aquarium’s Coral Nursery Manager, is scheduled to visit the Horniman this month. O’Neil will learn their techniques and brainstorm ideas of how to transport future coral fragments to Florida for restoration purposes.
Coral spawning is one of nature’s wonders and happens only once a year, which has meant opportunities for research have been limited – until now.
Florida Aquarium partnerhip a chance for ‘real world’ change
‘Project Coral is “game-changing”,’ observes Scott Graves, Director of The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation. ‘It allows us to spawn corals on site, create multiple spawning events across the year and drastically speed up restoration work to ensure the survival of Florida’s reef.’
Project Coral, led by the Horniman Aquarium with international partners, has been researching broadcast coral reproduction since 2012. Researchers have managed to replicate natural reef conditions – and the triggers for mass spawning events – in the lab, to predict and induce land-based spawning.
‘Project Coral has made huge strides in creating the protocols to induce coral spawning in lab conditions, and the Horniman’s research will continue to refine the techniques and understand the effects of climate change on coral reproduction,” adds Jamie Craggs, Aquarium Curator at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.
‘But, we need partners to be able to put our research into practice in the field. This partnership with The Florida Aquarium is Project Coral’s first opportunity to make a “real world” change and we look forward to seeing the positive effects our work together will have on Florida’s reefs.’
Images courtesy J Craggs/Horniman