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Coral Restoration Foundation, Florida Keys

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CreditSpencer Lowell for The New York Times

Located a few miles off the coast of Key Largo, Fla., more than 400 coral “trees” grow here in the Tavernier Coral Nursery, including five threatened species.

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CreditSpencer Lowell for The New York Times

Having pioneered a method for growing coral on treelike structures made from PVC pipes, the foundation grows coral in an underwater nursery for six to nine months before the specimens are taken to the ocean, glued into place and used to repopulate faltering reefs.

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CreditSpencer Lowell for The New York Times

Depending on the coral species, researchers might let a specimen grow to the size of a softball or a cantaloupe in the nursery before replanting it. Coral reefs are some of the richest ecosystems on the planet; despite being present on less than 2 percent of the ocean floor, they provide food and shelter to about a quarter of all known marine species.

National Lab for Genetic Resources Preservation, Fort Collins, Colo.

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CreditSpencer Lowell for The New York Times

The National Lab for Genetic Resources Preservations in Fort Collins, Colo., is run by the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Here, a researcher checks coral sperm cryogenically frozen and collected by Smithsonian scientists and stored alongside other genetic samples at the lab. This summer, they will grow coral from this cryopreserved and thawed sperm and, for the first time, transplant it into the wild.

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CreditSpencer Lowell for The New York Times

Most corals are hermaphroditic; one way they reproduce is by releasing tiny, floating packets that contain both sperm and eggs. When reefs die off and become fragmented, it is harder for corals to reproduce naturally. Researchers preserve sex cells cryogenically for future breeding.

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