Funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Supports FWRI Research Projects

In 2009, FWRI received federal stimulus program funds for a project to establish a nursery for threatened corals and a project to monitor oyster growth on newly created oyster reefs.

In 2009, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) received federal stimulus program funds for two projects, one to establish a nursery for threatened corals, and the other to monitor oyster growth on newly created oyster reefs.

FWRI's South Florida Regional Laboratory in Marathon received stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The funds come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Restoration Center through The Nature Conservancy. These funds were provided to establish a coral nursery in the Middle Florida Keys. The nursery is part of a larger collaborative effort with The Nature Conservancy, the Coral Restoration Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Miami, and Nova University to expand and establish nurseries in South Florida. In addition, this effort helps the economy of South Florida through the creation of new professional jobs using stimulus funds.

Underwater view of Acropora coralTo establish the Middle Florida Keys nursery, FWRI will: 1) collect fragments of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) from colonies along the reefs of the Middle Florida Keys and grow them in the nursery; 2) collect tissue samples from each wild coral colonies for genetic analysis; 3) collect coral fragments that have been broken off from the coral colony (for example, by storms or vessels) that are unlikely to survive at their current location; and 4) place colonies of the nursery-reared corals onto the reefs of the Florida Keys.

This project will be a major step in restoring staghorn coral to the reefs of the Florida Keys.

FWRI's Molluscan Fisheries research group also received ARRA funds through a cooperative project overseen by Martin County's Coastal and Water Quality group in association with CSA International, Inc. Martin County was awarded a NOAA grant as part of the stimulus program to create up to 200 acres of oyster reef within the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee rivers on Florida's southeast coast. This project is linked to the 50-year, multi-organization, restoration effort to restore the Florida Everglades and the nearby ecosystems.

Researchers at an oyster bedFWRI's role in this project will be monitoring the oysters on the newly created reefs to help evaluate whether the restoration effort is successful. FWRI biologists will make monthly trips to four of the restored reefs to count the number of new oysters arriving on the reef and assess the health of the oysters. Once every six months, biologists will estimate the density and size of oysters growing on the new reefs. Biologists will compare the data collected from the restoration sites, where shell has been added, to data from nearby natural control sites, where oysters are not expected to be affected by the restoration activities.

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