Category: coral reefs

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”

Groups say Florida port expansion plan is flawed

Letter to Corps of Engineers details serious problems

Citizen groups and environmental activists say a plan to expand Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, will harm unique coral reef ecosystems. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Community and environmental activists in Florida say a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan for expanding Port Everglades is flawed, especially considering the damage caused to reefs near Miami during the expansion of that port.

More than a dozen South Florida businesses and environmental organizations joined Miami Waterkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity last week to demand that the Corps reevaluate its Port Everglades expansion plan. Continue reading “Groups say Florida port expansion plan is flawed”

Protecting fish populations seen as key to coral reef conservation

Coral reefs need abundant and diverse fish populations to survive. Photo via NOAA.

Fishing regulations around coral reef hotspots must be enforced

Staff Report

FRISCO — Protecting fish populations around coral reefs may be the key to helping sustain coral ecosystems, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society that has major implications for coral reef management.

The study focused on coral reef diversity ‘hotspots’ in the southwestern Indian Ocean, finding that they rely more on the biomass of fish than where they are located. Continue reading “Protecting fish populations seen as key to coral reef conservation”