Scientists urge greater care of World Heritage sites

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef seen from a NASA satellite.

‘As a wealthy country, Australia has the capability and responsibility to improve its management of the reef’

FRISCO — Strong local management may be the key to preserving treasured world heritage sites, researchers concluded in a new study after taking a close look at threats facing the Amazon Rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef and Spain’s Doñana wetlands.

The team of scientists, who published their findings in the journal Science, said protecting such areas from the larger dangers of climate change requires addressing local threats, for example overfishing, fertilizer pollution and land clearing — all of which can exacerbate the effects of climatic extremes, such as heat waves and droughts. Continue reading

Oceans: Coral breeding success gives some hope for long-term Caribbean reef conservation

Effort could boost genetic diversity of rare species

Mark Vermeij

Pillar coral in the Caribbean. Photo courtesy Mark Vermeij.

Kristen Marhaver

Closeup of pillar coral tentacles. Photo courtesy Kristen Marhaver.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With the global warming clock ticking, scientists working on coral reef conservation say they’ve been able to raise a rare pillar corals in a lab.

The project provides the first photos and documentation of juveniles of this species, and could provide information to help bolster local coral reef conservation, according to the study published in the open access journal BMC Ecology.

The scientist also plan to ‘out-plant’ these lab-grown juveniles in the wild which could help populations become more resilient to climate change. Small juveniles of this species have never been seen in over 30 years of surveys in the Caribbean.  Continue reading

Scientists link warming ocean with coral-killing disease

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Elkhorn coral in the Caribbean Sea. Photo via NOAA.

‘Our data show that climate change has helped drive down staghorn and elkhorn corals …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Elkhorn and staghorn corals, once widespread across the Caribbean, have all but disappeared from the region, and scientists at the Florida Institute of Technology think they know why — ocean warming has been a big factor in the die-off, making the corals more susceptible to white-band disease.

“Our data show that climate change has helped drive down staghorn and elkhorn corals by boosting white-band disease,” said Florida Tech Ph.D. student Carly Randall. “We still don’t know if the disease is caused by a marine microbe, but now we do know that changes in the environment contributed to the problem.” Continue reading

Great Barrier Reef corals found to ‘eat’ plastic

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A satellite view of the Great Barrier Reef, via NOAA.

Plastic micro-pollution adds insult to injury for stressed coral reefs

Staff Report

FRISCO — Widespread micro-plastic pollution may take a toll on the famed Great Barrier Reef, scientists said this week after discovering that coral organisms will ingest the tiny plastic particles.

“Corals are non-selective feeders and our results show that they can consume microplastics when the plastics are present in seawater,” said Dr, Mia Hoogenboom, a researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

“If microplastic pollution increases on the Great Barrier Reef, corals could be negatively affected as their tiny stomach-cavities become full of indigestible plastic,” Hoogenboom added. Continue reading

More climate clues from ancient corals

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Coral reefs near Panama stopped growing during an exstended phase of La Niña-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘It’s possible that anthropogenic climate change may once again be pushing these reefs towards another regional collapse …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Past climate shifts resulting in La Niña-like conditions off the coast of Panamá resulted in a 2,500-year shutdown in coral reef growth, scientists said this week, warning that human-caused global warming could lead to similar conditions in the coming decades.

“We are in the midst of a major environmental change that will continue to stress corals over the coming decades, so the lesson from this study is that there are these systems such as coral reefs that are sensitive to environmental change and can go through this kind of wholesale collapse in response to these environmental changes,” said Kim Cobb, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Continue reading

Coral reefs to take big global warming hit this year

NOAA scientists say warm oceans pose risk to reefs

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Vast areas of the world’s oceans are so warm that coral reefs may take a big hit this year, according to the latest coral-bleaching outlook from NOAA.

Pink coral at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Pink coral at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After reporting major coral-bleaching events in 2014, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are warning that continued warm ocean temperatures are setting the stage for a repeat in 2015.

The warning is spelled out in the most recent outlook from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, a weekly product that forecasts the potential for coral bleaching up to four months in the future. Just last summer, the federal government put 20 coral types on the Endangered Species List, citing climate change as a major threat. Continue reading

Climate: Is the Great Barrier Reef doomed?

New study projects staggering coral losses as oceans warm

Coral Gardens: A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs near Palmyra Atoll.

A school of surgeonfish cruise coral reefs in the Pacific. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice reporting on coral reefs

FRISCO —Even under a moderate climate change scenario, with just 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warming, the Great Barrier Reef may be doomed to become just a shadow of itself within a few decades, researcher said this week, warning of the cumulative impacts of warmer water, acidification, pollution and over-fishing.

In the short term, the combined effects of those impacts enable seaweed to over-run corals, in effect suffocating them. In the longer term, interactions among reef organisms would lead to dominance by other groups, including sponges and soft corals known as gorgonians. Continue reading

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