Teams Study and Restore Corals Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria
March 7, 2018
The impacts of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season were historic for communities in Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. While coral reefs—the first lines of protection for these coastal communities—stood strong against the storms, many were heavily impacted. NOAA is working alongside local agencies, community members, and a group of military veterans to study and restore thousands of corals.
Teams began work in October 2017 and it is ongoing. Stay up to date and dive deeper into our post-hurricane restoration efforts with the online resources below.
Interactive Story Map
By Miguel Figuerola
How do corals and their habitats look after being hit by 20-foot-plus waves, river-like ocean currents, and continuous sedimentation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria? This story map chronicles the initial efforts from October to December 2017 to get boots on the ground and fins in the water to find out. Click the photo below to launch the story map.
Photos from the Field
Click through these images for a driver's perspective of coral reef areas impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Photo 1/10 : In Sombrero Reef, Florida Keys National marine Sanctuary, an elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) survived hurricane Irma's waves, offering important shelter for juvenile snappers and parrot fish. Credit: NOAA and Jessica Levy
Photo 2/10 : Divers begin a long day of work at Alligator Reef, Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA, K. Lesneski
Photo 3/10 : Coral fragments stabilized during initial post-hurricane restoration efforts. All species shown here are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Credit: NOAA
(A) Divers pull an overturned elkhorn coral colony (Acropora palmata) back into its upright position.
(B) Large elkhorn coral storm fragment stabilized with cement at Sapphire Reef, U.S. Virgin Islands.
(C) Small elkhorn coral storm fragment stabilized with underwater epoxy at Elbow Reef, Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary.
(D) Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) storm fragment stabilized with cement at Stragglers Reef, U.S. Virgin Islands.
(E) Massive star coral (Orbicella faveolata) storm fragment stabilized with cement at Stragglers Reef, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Photo 4/10 : A curious hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) encountered during fieldwork at Dustan Rocks, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA Restoration Center
Photo 5/10 : In Tamarindo Chico, Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, overturned corals with macroalgal overgrowth were a common post-hurricane sight. Scientists are concerned by the rapid growth of this pink, fleshy macroalgae. Credit: NOAA Restoration Center
Photo 6/10 : In Cayo Diablo, Puerto Rico, intense wave action detached this colony of massive star coral (Orbicella faveolata). Credit: NOAA Restoration Center, Michael Nemeth
Photo 7/10 : This elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) thicket in Cueva del Indio, Arecibo, Puerto Rico remained fairly intact. Credit: NOAA Restoration Center, Michael Nemeth
Photo 8/10 : These elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) fragments were found in Elbow Reef, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: NOAA and Jessica Levy
Photo 9/10 : This damaged staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) thicket was documented in Flat Cay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. It was subject to multiple hurricane impacts and its recovery is challenged by competition from encrusting algae. Credit: NOAA and Hanae Spathias
Photo 10/10 : Divers photographed this old two-meter-tall pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) in Flat Cay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Credit: NOAA and Hanae Spathias
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the program is part of NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.