Common sunscreen compound mutates corals

A coral reef at the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Jim Maragos/USFWS.

A coral reef at the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Jim Maragos/USFWS.

Consumers should choose products carefully

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — All that sunscreen you slather on at the beach may help you prevent sunburn, but it’s not, as long suspected, the best for coral reefs. Turns out that a chemical used in many sunscreens, along with soap, cosmetics and body fragrances, is highly toxic to corals.

Research by scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science shows that even very low concentrations of benzophenone-2, or BP-2, can quickly kill juvenile corals. The additive has been used in personal-care products since the 1960s to protect against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Continue reading

Study finds serious pollution in seabottom sediments of Guánica Bay, Puerto Rico

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Trouble at the bottom of the Caribbean, as researchers document high concentrations of toxics in sediments.

Toxins may be harming coral reef ecosystems

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Standing along the shore of Guánica Bay, Puerto Rico, the dazzling aquamarine Caribbean waters look normal. But deep below the surface, there may be trouble brewing, according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Pollutants measured in the sediments of the bay are among the highest ever measured by NOAA’s National Status & Trends, a nationwide contaminant monitoring program that began in 1986. The pollutants include PCBs, chlordane, chromium and nickel, according to the new NOAA study. Continue reading

Coral reefs can recover from pollution impacts

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by Caroline Rogers/USGS.

‘We’re desperately trying to save what’s left, and cleaning up the water may be one mechanism that has the most promise …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By setting up a long-term, controlled exposure experiment in Florida, researchers were able to pin down the impact of nutrient overloads and separate them from other possible causes of coral reef decline.

The three-year study, confirmed what scientists have long suspected — pollution from sewage, agricultural runoff and other land-based sources can lead to coral disease and bleaching.

The results showed that the prevalence of disease doubled and the amount of coral bleaching, an early sign of stress, more than tripled. However, the study also found that once the injection of pollutants was stopped, the corals were able to recover in a surprisingly short time. Continue reading

Are reef fish slowing down as oceans warm up?

Australian study finds warmer ocean temps may be causing problems for coral trout and other large reef fish

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Coral trout may be slowing down as their ocean habitat warms. Photo courtesy Richard Ling, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Warmer water temperatures in the southeastern Pacific Ocean are taking a toll on coral trout, according to a new study from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

Fish rely on swimming for almost all activities necessary for survival, including hunting for food and finding mates, said Dr, Jacob Johansen, explaining that their research found that global warming may reduce the swimming ability of many fish species, and “have major impacts on their ability to grow and reproduce.” Continue reading

Climate ‘payback’ for coral reefs?

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Elkhorn coral is in steep decline in the Caribbean. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study suggests many abundant species won’t do well with global warming

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The most abundant and widespread coral species could take the biggest hit from climate change, as warming temperatures and changing water chemistry take their toll on marine ecosystems, according to University of Hawaii and NOAA researchers.

The new findings call into question previous assumptions that corals don’t  face a risk of extinction unless they become very rare or have a very restricted range. The team of scientists from the University of Hawaii – Manoa Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that global changes in climate and ocean chemistry affect corals whether scare or abundant. Continue reading

Can coral reefs adapt to global warming?

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

Genetic adaptations may enable some species to persist in warmer oceans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some coral reefs may be able to adapt to warming seas through genetic adaptation — but only if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced dramatically, according to scientists who took a hard look at the rate of coral bleaching.

The study projects that some corals could reduce the currently projected rate of temperature-induced bleaching by 20 to 80 percent of levels expected by the year 2100, giving hope that some corals can survive through the end of the century.

“The hope this work brings is only achieved if there is significant reduction of human-related emissions of heat-trapping gases,” said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program, which tracks bleaching events worldwide. “Adaptation provides no significant slowing in the loss of coral reefs if we continue to increase our rate of fossil fuel use.” 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

Study: Sharks crucial to coral reef health

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Sharks, apex predators of many ocean ecosystems, play a key role in maintaining coral reef health. Photo courtesy NOAA.

As apex predators, sharks play an important role in regulating ecosystems, including coral reefs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with the stresses of global warming and pollution, shark fishing may be another important factor in the decline of coral reefs, according to Canadian and Australian scientists.

“Where shark numbers are reduced due to commercial fishing, there is also a decrease in the herbivorous fishes which play a key role in promoting reef health,” said Jonathan Ruppert, a recent University of Toronto PhD graduate. Ruppert was part of a team engaged in long-term monitoring of reefs off Australia’s northwest coast.

Team leader Mark Meekan, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the study suggests that, where shark numbers are reduced, there is a fundamental change in the structure of food chains on reef. 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

Oceans: Native predators won’t halt lionfish invasion

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Invasive lionfish won’t be controlled by native predators, leaving human intervention as the main option for management. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Active removal by humans probably the only option for removal

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Invasive lionfish have colonized the Caribbean and have moved up the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. as far as North Carolina, where they now threaten local fish populations, according to marine biologists at the University of North Carolina.

Not only that, but the spiny invaders are out-predating fish like sharks and barracudas, threatening to throw coral reef ecosystems out of whack. The only recourse is human intervention, the scientists said after publishing a paper in the journal PLOS ONE. showing that native predators won’t have much luck supressing the unwanted guests.

“Lionfish are here to stay, and it appears that the only way to control them is by fishing them,” said John Bruno, professor of biology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and lead investigator of the study.  Continue reading

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