Gardening coral of our own

We have been talking a lot about the importance of fish pee for tropical coastal ecosystems over the past few years.  Most of this research has focused on the importance of fish pee for seagrasses and algae.  We are now extending these efforts to understand its importance for coral growth and development.

A recent study of ours provides compelling evidence that fish communities pee nutrients at optimal amounts of nitrogen (N) relative to phosphorus (P) for coral development.  In the same way that growing the best tomatoes in your garden requires a fertilizer that has just the right amount of N relative to P, we believe that fish pee does exactly this for coral.  In our experiment we have suspended coral above our artificial reefs (from a “coral tree” – see video)  to test how coral grow under various nutrient conditions.  We change the relative amounts of nutrients being supplied to the coral by manipulating the reefs such that they have high and low densities of fish (high densities being optimal nutrient conditions), but also by adding fertilizer at a very different ratio of N and P, that simulates human sewage (which we believe to be bad for coral). This project is in collaboration with Dustin Kemp (University of Georgia) and made possible by the dedication of a local Frenchmen, Richard Appaldo.  We will be pulling the coral to run tests on their growth and fitness in the spring.

By | 2016-03-07T15:31:50-05:00 March 7th, 2016|Categories: Coral, Current Events, Fish, Nutrients, pollution|2 Comments

About the Author:

Jacob Allgeier
I am an ecologist with broad interests in how human-induced changes alter how ecosystems function and the services that they provide. A central focus of my research is understanding how changes in biodiversity affect the flow of nutrients and energy in ecosystems. Most of this research takes place in tropical coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. I am an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


  1. Avatar
    Dawn & Eric Nielsen March 15, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    My family and I will be staying in the Abacos for two months this spring. If you need any volunteers to help you with your research, please contact us. The Nielsens

  2. Craig Layman
    Craig Layman March 17, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Thank you!

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