Category: coral reefs

U.S. and Cuba to partner on Caribbean conservation efforts

Cuban coral reefs thought to be among region’s most pristine

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Ocean conservation efforts in the Caribbean could benefit from collaboration between U.S. and Cuban scientists. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Tourists won’t be the only beneficiaries of easing tensions between the U.S. and Cuba. Scientists working in the Caribbean will also be able to find new opportunities for collaboration, according to federal officials.

“Ocean currents know no boundaries,” said Billy Causey, regional director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries‘ Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. “They’re a conveyor belt, moving important marine life between our countries. Working together will help us better preserve these natural resources to benefit people in both our countries,” Causey said.

In fact, information-sharing has been ongoing since late last year, when NOAA, the U.S. National Park Service and Cuba’s National Center for Protected Areas agreed to share research to help the countries work together on some of the Caribbean’s most ecologically significant resources. Continue reading “U.S. and Cuba to partner on Caribbean conservation efforts”

Study says ocean acidification has already slowed coral growth

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

‘If we don’t take action … coral reefs will not survive into the next century’

Staff Report

The most dangerous effects of global warming may still be decades away, but ocean scientists say that the buildup of carbon dioxide is already slowing down the growth of coral reefs. By simulating ocean acidification on a section of the Great Barrier Reef, the researchers showed that excess C02 in the atmosphere is affecting coral reefs.

“Our work provides the first strong evidence from experiments on a natural ecosystem that ocean acidification is already causing reefs to grow more slowly than they did 100 years ago,” said study lead author Rebecca Albright, a marine biologist in Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif. “Ocean acidification is already taking its toll on coral reef communities. This is no longer a fear for the future; it is the reality of today.” Continue reading “Study says ocean acidification has already slowed coral growth”

Mass coral reef die-off reaches record duration

Global warming, El Niño combine for double whammy

NOAA tracks coral reef hotspots with a special website. Click on the image to visit the page.
NOAA tracks coral reef hotspots with a special website. Click on the image to visit the page.

Staff Report

Coral reefs around the world are getting hit by the double whammy of global warming and an intense El Niño this year. Record and near-record warmth spread across large parts of the world’s major oceans are prolonging the longest global coral die-off on record.

“We’re maybe looking at a 2- to 2.5-year-long event. Some areas have already seen bleaching two years in a row,” said Mark Eakin, a biological oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in College Park, Maryland, and coordinator of the agency’s Coral Reef Watch.

When corals are stressed by conditions such as high temperatures, they expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues. Without the algae, corals lose a significant source of food and are more vulnerable to disease. In a severe bleaching event, large swaths of reef-building corals die. This causes reefs to erode, destroying fish habitat and exposing previously protected shorelines to the destructive force of ocean waves. Continue reading “Mass coral reef die-off reaches record duration”

Scientists track viral outbreaks in coral reefs

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.
Mapping coral diseases may help devise protective strategies. Photo courtesy NOAA.

New findings come during global reef-bleaching event caused by global warming

Staff Report

Virus outbreaks may compound the stresses faced by coral reefs in the global warming era, researchers said, after observing an explosive viral outbreak in the Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists with Oregon State University studied the event and reported their findings in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, explaining how their research is important in the context of an ongoing global coral reef bleaching event.

“This is bad news,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an assistant professor of microbiology in the OSU College of Science and corresponding author on the study. “This bleaching event occurred in a very short period on a pristine reef. It may recover, but incidents like this are now happening more widely all around the world. This research suggests that viral infection could be an important part of the problem that until now has been undocumented, and has received very little attention,” she said. Continue reading “Scientists track viral outbreaks in coral reefs”

Climate: Heat-adapted corals not immune to bleaching

Intertidal Acropora corals exposed to air at low tide.
Intertidal Acropora corals exposed to air at low tide. Photo courtesy Dr. Verena Schoepf.

A matter of degrees …

Staff Report

Even corals living in some of the warmest ocean waters on the planet are susceptible to bleaching and heat stress, according to Australian researchers who studied unique tidal species in the Kimberley region.

When the water gets too warm, it breaks down the symbiosis between coral and their zooxanthellae (the microscopic plants which gives coral most of its colour), which can be fatal for the coral.

In the new study by scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies said they were surprised to find that corals around the Kimberley region in north Western Australia are just as sensitive to heat stress and bleaching as their counterparts from less extreme environments elsewhere. Continue reading “Climate: Heat-adapted corals not immune to bleaching”

NOAA says coral reefs worldwide hit by bleaching

Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA).
Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA).

Up to 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs may be affected

Staff Report

Global warming is causing global coral bleaching, ocean scientists said today, confirming that rising ocean temperatures are resulting in massive and widespread impacts to reefs around the world.

“The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El Niño, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world,” NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator, Mark Eakin, said in a statement. Continue reading “NOAA says coral reefs worldwide hit by bleaching”

Chile creates largest marine preserve in the Americas

 Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic
A new marine park off the coast of Chile will help protect important ocean resources. Photo courtesy Enric Sala/National Geographic.

‘A gift to the world …’

Staff Report

The creation of the world’s largest marine park in the Americas could help rebuild fish stocks off the coast of South America, ocean experts said this week, hailing Chile’s announcement that it will protect 297,518 square kilometers as a no-take zone. With the formation of Nazca-Desventuradas, Chile will now protect 12 percent of its marine surface area

 “Chile is one of the world’s primary fishing countries,” said Alex Muñoz, vice president for Oceana in Chile. “With the creation of this large marine park, Chile also becomes a world leader in marine conservation.” Continue reading “Chile creates largest marine preserve in the Americas”