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Transplants offer hope to damaged reef

  |   Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:37 PM
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Feb. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. marine scientists on Florida's Atlantic Coast say they're using corals grown in an onshore nursery to help restore a damaged reef.

About 100 basketball-size corals will be transplanted Friday to see if they can help save the reefs and the surrounding marine life, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Abby Renegar of the National Coral Reef Institute in Dania Beach, Fla., said restoring the reef that runs past Fort Lauderdale may protect marine life from offshore oil drilling that began last month off the north coast of Cuba, about 56 miles from Florida.

"Having an onshore nursery gives you a repository, protected from whatever happens off shore," Renegar told the newspaper. "Case in point: If we have an oil spill in Cuba and we have massive mortality [of corals] offshore, our corals onshore are protected from all of that."

Federal officials said coral transplants may also be used to restore damaged reefs near Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

John Christensen, reef conservation manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the coral transplants "infuse genetic diversity into a place where not much exists, making it possible for corals to reproduce sexually. If these grow up successfully, their eggs and sperm will go into currents and reseed a much larger area."

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