Articles & Case Studies

Floridacoral habitat preserved by Atkins’ scientific divers

Posted: Monday 27th February 2012

Atkins’ scientific dive team has been chosen to oversee the removal and transplantation of more than 200 coral colonies living on a utility pipeline off the Florida coast in North America. The work has been commissioned by Broward County in order to protect vital marine life habitats while remedial work is undertaken on the pipeline’s protective cover which was damaged during recent dredging operations.

The translocation process involves the removal of a variety of coral species, including Acropora coral, from a 1500 feet section of sewage outflow pipeline which sits in over 20 feet of water off the Broward County shoreline. This is a meticulous operation which is performed by hand using a variety of tools, including chisels and hammers. Once removed the coral colonies will then be temporarily cached on a nearby location or potentially on an artificial reef.

Don Deis, Atkins’ senior scientist with the US water & environment division, said:”This is a delicate operation as the coral colonies have been growing on the outflow pipe for more than 20 years and they have matured into a vital part of the ecosystem for hundreds of fish species and marine invertebrates. Because of this we need to make sure that the position of each coral is accurately logged so it can be returned to the same spot from which it came.

“It is clearly an important ecological project and as such Broward County in coordination with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the National Marine Fisheries Service have developed a specific Coral Relocation, Monitoring, and Compensatory Mitigation Plan as a guide for the work.”

The corals will remain in their temporary location until the damaged pipeline’s protective cover has been reinforced with concrete mats. Once the construction process is complete the corals will then be taken back to the pipeline site and reattached using a cement mix which has been developed for coral.

Atkins’ marine biologists, members of the Atkins Scientific Dive Team will be working alongside commercial divers from Underwater Engineering Services Incorporated (, who are the prime contractors and will be performing the repairs to the protective cover.

Atkins’ scientific divers work all over North America. In 2009 the team was awarded the Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award for assisting with the long term biological monitoring of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. They offer specialised expertise in coral reef analysis, protection and rehabilitation as well as fish surveys and archaeological work.

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