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Oceans: Science team reports new finds in Farallones Sanctuary

Corals, rockfish and sponges found at unprecedented depths

Black coral (Antipathes species) with a rosy rockfish in it on “Cochrane Bank,” -95 meters depth, 9.5° Celsius. This coral is two meters across and suspected to be at least 100 years old. The coral had many crabs and juvenile fish living in it. The stems/skeletons of black corals are black, but the living tissue is usually orange or white. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The foggy wave-torn coast of northern California may not seem like a haven for coral at first glance, but NOAA researchers say they’ve recently discovered a treasure trove of new deep sea habitats in the Gulf of Farallones Sanctuary, not far from San Francisco.

The area is a melting pot for deep sea corals, sponges, rockfish, and other species.

A partnership of federal and independent scientists found the rocky reef habitats in October in an area at depths  of up to 457 meters, where such corals and sponges had not been seen before. Continue reading

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Gulf oysters tainted with heavy metals from oil spill

Caption: Oyster shells like this one, collected from the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have been shown to contain higher concentrations of three heavy metals common in crude oil -- vanadium, cobalt, and chromium -- than specimens collected before the spill.
Credit: California Academy of Sciences

Researchers denied access to pure samples of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — BP’s oil continues to have toxic after-effects two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico.

Scientists tracking the long-term impacts have found devastated corals on the sea floor, sick dolphins in coastal areas and most recently, heavy metal contamination in Gulf oysters linked to the oil.

“While there is still much to be done as we work to evaluate the impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the Gulf’s marine food web, our preliminary results suggest that heavy metals from the spill have impacted one of the region’s most iconic primary consumers and may affect the food chain as a whole,” said Dr. Peter Roopnarine, of the California Academy of Sciences.

Roopnarine has detected evidence that pollutants from the oil have entered the ecosystem’s food chain. For the past two years, the team has been studying oysters (Crassostrea virginica) collected both before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil reached the coasts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. Continue reading

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