The world’s coral reefs are dying at alarming rates. FIU researcher Mauricio Rodriguez-Lanetty believes deep-sea corals could help replenish their more imperiled, shallow counterparts. That’s because shallow reefs are affected by fishing, pollution, global warming and sunscreen more than deep reefs.
Rodriguez-Lanetty’s research team has built the world’s deepest coral nursery residing at 90 ft. below the ocean surface. Using PVC pipe and fiberglass, they have constructed artificial trees in partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation. Plastic cards dangle from the fiberglass branches where young corals can grow.
These trees were deployed to FIU’s Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only underwater research lab, off the shores of Islamorada, Florida. NASA astronauts training for the isolated and extreme environments of space at the Aquarius Reef Base planted the trees in 2015.
Since then, FIU scientists and NASA astronauts have regular visits to monitor the progress and maintain the health of the growing corals. It is the first step in finding solutions to one of the oceans’ greatest environmental threats.