An estimated 80 percent of all Caribbean corals have disappeared over the last four decades and repopulating degraded reefs has since become a management priority throughout the Caribbean region, researchers said.
The elkhorn coral was one of the species whose decline was so severe that it was one of the first coral species to be listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species act in 2006, and as critically endangered under The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species in 2008.
Due to its large size and branching shape, elkhorn corals created vast forests in shallow reef waters that protect shores from incoming storms and provide a critical habitat for a myriad of other reef organisms, including ecologically and economically important fish species.
"In 2011, offspring of the critically endangered elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) were reared from gametes collected in the field and were outplanted to a reef one year later," said Valerie Chamberland, coral reef ecologist at the US-based non-profit SECORE International.
"In four years, these branching corals have grown to a size of a soccer ball and reproduced, simultaneously with their natural population, in September 2015," said Chamberland, who also works for Carmabi Marine Research Station in Curacao.

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