Coral-List: Coral Morphologic presents “The Endangered Elkhorn Corals of Fisher Island & Miami’s Deep Dredge (Part 1 of 3)”

May 26

With so many dredge projects being proposed on reefs around the world, here
is another reminder of just how negative the impact can be.

The massive Army Corps of Engineers’ Deep Dredge of Port Miami has now been
ongoing for 18 months nearly non-stop (with several more to go). Not only
have the Army Corps failed to transplant a large number of
federally-protected staghorn corals (*Acropora cervicornis*) living within
the offshore dredging area, they have also produced copious amounts of silt
that has smothered acres of adjacent reef area outside where they claimed
would be impacted. We have documented multiple corals having been
improperly transplanted by their paid contractors, in some cases not even
bothering to use adhesive to reattach them. In other cases, corals that
were transplanted still wound up smothered to death due to their horizontal
attachment on boulders which collects falling silt on their tissue and
doesn’t allow for easy sloughing off.

After our most recent health survey of several highly unusual elkhorn
corals (*Acropora palmata*) living on a coastal seawall along Fisher
Island’s marina here in Miami, we have decided to bring their plight
public. While staghorn is not particularly uncommon offshore Miami, elkhorn
is so extremely rare that is almost absent. It is quite possible that these
are the most ‘coastal’ of all of Florida’s elkhorn colonies… they are
literally growing along the shoreline in knee-deep water adjacent to a
marina and a wastewater treatment plant. The fact that they have persisted
for so long in man-made urban habitat is a testament to their resilience.
However, it is clear that over the past year and half of dredging, the
health of these colonies has declined precipitously. Coral Morphologic
proposes that these elkhorn corals, which are receiving the full brunt of
siltation stress, should be given special protection to ensure their
survival before the summer heat adds to their stress. Given that there are
multiple independent elkhorn branches as a result of past white pox die-off
(that caused them to become discontinuous sub-colonies), we propose that
they are ideal for in-situ mariculture in a coastal coral nursery here in
Miami where they can be carefully propagated into large enough numbers for
subsequent laboratory research and local reef restoration.

Video of the elkhorn coral and improperly transplanted corals on Fisher
Island can be found here:

http://coralmorphologic.com/b/2015/05/21/fisher-island-corals-the-saga-of-the-deep-dredge-part-1-of-3

Stay tuned for Part 2 follows up with the fate of two different hybrid
fused-staghorn (*Acropora prolifera*) corals living alongside the elkhorn
corals on Fisher Island.

Cheers,
Colin Foord
Coral Morphologic coralmorphologic@gmail.com via coral.aoml.noaa.gov

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