Coral Reef Restoration In Florida Keys

Just up the road from me. I have done volunteer work for Mote Marine Laboratory. I first met Dave Vaughan at the bar/club I once deejayed. He’s a beautiful human being:…

But hobbyists discovered a shortcut: If you break a coral into small pieces, those pieces will grow much faster, not unlike how your skin grows quickly when healing a wound.

One day more than a decade ago, David Vaughan, a coral-restoration scientist, also stumbled upon this approach. He was cleaning a tank of baby elkhorn coral at Mote, and one got stuck to the bottom. When he yanked it, the coral broke into tiny shards. Vaughan, a bearded man with long, white hair, thought that he had killed the elkhorn coral, a critically endangered species and one of just a dozen such individuals that Mote scientists had painstakingly grown from spawn.

He checked the broken pieces again two weeks later, and his eyes widened: Each fragment had grown into a dime-sized colony of its own. What would normally take two years took only two weeks.

Vaughan later tried this approach — known as microfragmentation — on nearly 20 species of Atlantic coral. “It worked on all of them,” said Vaughan, who has since pioneered the approach for restoration. He began growing 600 corals a day (instead of in six years) at Mote, where he led the International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration. “We started running out of tank space.”