Coral reefs are amongst the oldest living and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. However, they continue to degrade and decline worldwide. Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata) populations, for example, have decreased over 90% since the 1970’s, landing them on the endangered species list (ESA) as threatened with extinction.
In 2004, the Foundation partnered with Counterpart International and University of Miami, to develop a “Coral Gardens” in Punta Cana, with a goal of protecting the remaining Acropora wild colonies while increasing this population with genetically diverse corals grown in underwater nurseries.
Coral gardening consists of collecting corals from existing colonies and then propagating them in nurseries on rope and metal frames. As the corals grow, the frames are pruned and the coral fragments out planted back onto the reef.
The Foundation’s Coral Garden program has become one of the largest coral nurseries in the Caribbean, with additional nurseries throughout the Dominican Republic. The Foundation has led workshops, conducted research, published scientific papers and presented at conferences to help promote coral gardening worldwide.