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Mote Marine and Taiwanese researchers will study heat-resilient coral and restoration

Knobby Cactus Coral after the summer 2023 bleaching event in Florida's Coral Reef.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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Courtesy
Knobby Cactus Coral after the summer 2023 bleaching event in Florida's Coral Reef.

Mote's president and CEO said the partnership will "enhance science-based coral resilience and restoration approaches despite the threats that we're seeing today."

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota is now part of an international collaboration on heat-resilient coral research and restoration.

Florida's Coral Reef experienced the worst bleaching event ever recorded last summer.

Water temperatures were 5 degrees hotter than usual, with temperatures on the reef reaching up to 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Surface temperatures reached 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a buoy in Manatee Bay.

Starting about a month earlier than the typical peak hot months of August and September, unusually hot waters started in mid-July — coinciding with an El Niño year, where warm water is pushed back east toward the west coast of the Americas.

Water temperatures didn't cool off until October, forcing Florida’s corals to spend almost double the time in abnormally hot temperatures compared to any of the previous bleaching years in Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website.

Four people facing the camera each holding signed documents with images of underwater coral projected behind them.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
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Courtesy
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium signed a Memorandum of Understanding for international collaboration on heat-resilient coral research and restoration with Delta Environmental and Educational Foundation, the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, and the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology.

Now, Sarasota's Mote Marine lab has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with three science-focused entities based in Taiwan and the U.S.: Delta Environmental and Educational Foundation, the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, and the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology.

Delta has developed a coral restoration project in collaboration with the NMMBA and NMMST, which aims to restore 10,000 corals over three years through propagation and breeding, the release said.

“We will send volunteers from Delta's coral restoration project to the United States for exchange and learning. We hope that by enhancing coral bleaching early warning and rescue mechanisms, we can better prepare for the next coral bleaching event in Taiwan,” said Shan-Shan Guo, executive director of the Delta.

The MOU establishes Mote as a key science partner in the project.

“Our shared oceans know no political boundaries and by exchanging knowledge and learning from each other, we will, together, enhance science-based coral resilience and restoration approaches despite the threats that we're seeing today, and what we can expect to see in the future,” said Michael P. Crosby, Mote president and CEO.

“While this is a landmark new international partnership, I am especially pleased that we’ll also be co-training skilled community volunteers to directly engage in science-based coral restoration, and will be establishing joint international high school programs to provide experiential learning opportunities for the next generation.”

Mote said in a news release it will focus on surveying reefs to get a clearer picture of which corals survived and why, while expanding its reproduction methods for producing genetically resilient coral.

Researchers say the recovery is likely now dependent on adaptive management and pro-active science-based restoration.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.