Genetics help pinpoint origins of lionfish invasion

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Red lionfish are swarming the western Atlantic and Caribbean. Photo courtesy USGS.

New data may help control efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO— Biologists and resource managers grappling with invasive red lionfish in the Caribbean have some new clues based on genetic research.

Without natural predators, lionfish have spread throughout the western Atlantic, displacing native fish and disrupting ecosystems.

In a new study released this week, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say the invasion probably started in multiple locations. Florida had been fingered as the likely source, but the analysis suggest that multiple introductions occurred, with some potentially coming from the more southern parts of the range. Continue reading

Climate Change: New study enables detailed projections of coral reef bleaching

More information equals more conservation options

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Bleached white corals in the Cheeca Rocks area of Florida. Photo via NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — After issuing a general warning about the potential for widespread coral reef bleaching this year, federal scientists now say they have the ability to make more detailed projections about the timing and geographic distribution of such events.

The concerns this summer focus around emerging El Niño conditions, which could overheat parts of the world’s oceans that have already been hovering at near-record temperatures. Most coral reefs in  the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching by mid-century, but if scientists can pinpoint the timing, it gives them more conservation options. 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

USGS study eyes Caribbean tsunami risk

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Could there be a tsunami in the Caribbean?

Guadeloupe seen as focal point for unreleased tectonic strain

Staff Report

FRISCO — The risk of a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami may be greater than previously thought, U.S. Geological Survey researchers say after studying the plate boundary in the Lesser Antilles region, where 20 of the 26 Caribbean islands are located.

The geologists estimate that enough unreleased strain may have accumulated offshore of Guadeloupe to potentially create a magnitude 8.0-8.4 earthquake. A magnitude 7.5 – 8.5 quake in 1843 killed several thousand people in Guadeloupe, and a similar quake in the future could cause several tens to several hundreds of fatalities, and hundreds of millions to billions of U.S. dollars in damages. Continue reading

Judge says feds must do better job of protecting Caribbean corals from fishing impacts

At the fish market in Negril, Jamaica.

Overfishing of parrot fish in the Caribbean is harming coral reefs. bberwyn photo.

Reef-grazing fish crucial to coral health

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Endangered Caribbean corals got a little help this week from a federal court judge, who ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service must consider how fishing affects reef health.

According to the court, the federal agency erred by allowing fishing for depleted parrotfish and other algae-eating reef fish species without properly monitoring the fishery’s impacts on rare corals that depend on healthy fish populations.

The decision came in response to an Endangered Species Act suit filed in January 2012 by Earthjustice on behalf of two conservation groups, CORALations and the Center for Biological Diversity, and Mary Adele Donnelly. Continue reading

Feds see more threats to Caribbean corals

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Elkhorn corals in the Caribbean are feeling the heat of global warming. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Fisheries Service gets deadline for recovery plan under court settlement

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Two key coral species around Florida need even more TLC than previously thought, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, which wants to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals from “threatened” to the even more serious category of “endangered” because of their rapid decline.

The agency also agree to speed up finalization of a recovery plan under a court settlement that sets a 2014 deadline. These corals were protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2006 because of threats from global warming and ocean acidification but, before today’s settlement agreement, had still not received the legally required recovery plan needed to save them from extinction. Continue reading

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