Tag: coral reefs

2016: A year to remember

The year the corals died …

Bleached elkhorn coral. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Bleached elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

After spending several months abroad in the autumn of 2015 I returned to the U.S. just in time for Christmas and New Years, as well as the lead-up to the Super Bowl. At the same time, the presidential campaign was starting to wind up, with Trump already spreading his poisoned rhetoric and the Democrats hopelessly divided and apparently unable to offer any meaningful positive message to counter the GOP hatefest.

But what I really noticed is that most Americans weren’t actually paying much attention to the unfolding election. The GOP primary was just another sideshow in the circus of consumerism and entertainment that has become of the mainstay of American civic life. To me, it felt like what a decaying Rome must have been experiencing as the empire waned, the masses entertained by excessive spectacles in the Coliseum, while the ruling class made its last-ditch effort to exploit society for short-term gain. It all crystalized for me in late January, when I saw three stories juxtaposed in the Denver Post: one on the Flint water crisis, a second on Trump’s ascendancy and a third on the armed takeover of a wildlife preserve by the Bundy malcontents. Taken together, the three articles represent the decline of American civilization. I wrote about it here.

In the West, the fracturing of the consensus on American values has often played out in the realm of public lands management, and nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of endangered species. I saw this trend reinforced in mid-January at a Denver meeting on wolves, where it became clear that, for all the efforts that have been made, the reactionary opposition to predator restoration still prevails in the establishment. More in this in my wolf restoration post on Medium.

Another story that marked 2016 was the global debate over refugees. In February, human rights groups announced that, in the first six weeks of the year, 80,000 people had already made the journey to Europe, and more than 400 had already died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading “2016: A year to remember”

Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching

Northern section hammered by warm ocean temperatures

This NASA photo shows southern portion of the reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast
This NASA photo shows a southern portion of the Great Barrier Reef adjacent to the central Queensland coast.

Staff Report

Australian researchers this week released results of their latest Great Barrier Reef surveys, concluding that huge swaths of coral died in the past year under the onslaught of an ocean heatwave that led to widespread coral bleaching.

In the hardest-hit area along a 700-kilometer section of the northern reef, an of 67 percent of shallow-water corals died in the last six to nine months. Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, the scientists were relieved to find a much lower death toll. Continue reading “Australian scientists say parts of Great Barrier Reef survived bleaching”

New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage

Heat-driven coral bleaching continues to take a toll

Staff Report

A new survey of the Great Barrier Reef shows that an ocean heat wave that peaked last March killed up to 95 percent of corals in some parts of the northern reef.  And in the aftermath of the worst coral-bleaching event on record, predatory snails are now taking on toll on the remaining corals.

According to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, researchers recently returned to 83 reefs they surveyed at the height of the bleaching event.

“Millions of corals in the north of the Great Barrier Reef died quickly from heat stress in March and since then, many more have died more slowly,” said Dr. Greg Torda whose team recently returned from re-surveying reefs near Lizard Island. Continue reading “New surveys confirm Great Barrier Reef damage”

Bleaching risk on the rise for Great Barrier Reef corals

Global warming is likely to overwhelm corals'
Global warming is likely to overwhelm corals’ built-in thermal tolerance mechanisms within the next few decades, leading to more bleaching and mortality. Photo courtesy Dr. Peter Mumby.

Study identifies bleaching and mortality thresholds for imperiled coral reefs

Staff Report

The steady rise in ocean temperatures projected for the next few decades will put more and more corals at risk of bleaching, as the warm water simply overwhelms their thermal tolerance mechanisms.

Recent research along the Great Barrier Reef shows that corals have been able to survive past bleaching events because they were acclimated to warmer temperatures by being exposed to a pattern of gradually warming waters in the lead up to each episode. But global warming is likely to change that, the scientists said.

Before long, temperature increases of as little as 0.5 degrees Celsius may push many corals over the edge as the warm water causes them to expel the algae-like dinoflagellates that help keep them alive and give them their color.

Lead author Dr. Tracy Ainsworth from Coral CoE said  bleaching is like a marathon for corals.

“When corals are exposed to a pre-stress period in the weeks before bleaching, as temperatures start to climb, this acts like a practice run and prepares the coral. Corals that are exposed to this pattern are then less stressed and more tolerant when bleaching does occur,” Ainsworth said. Continue reading “Bleaching risk on the rise for Great Barrier Reef corals”

Florida harbor dredging threatens corals

Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.
Mapping coral diseases is helping researchers determine the cause. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Activists plan lawsuit to win more environmental protection

Staff Report

Even with coral reefs around the world under the global warming gun, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking approval for a controversial Florida dredging project that could smother parts of the only coastal barrier reef in the continental United States.

But a coalition of environmental and community groups have banded together to try and the the Corps to provide mandatory, common-sense protections for reefs near the Port Everglades dredging project near Fort Lauderdale. The project’s goal is to increase coastal access for larger ships. Continue reading “Florida harbor dredging threatens corals”

Australian scientists document massive coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef

Global warming impacts on reefs unfolding as projected

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching 2016
Aerial surveys by Australian researchers shows that at least 40 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching. Photo courtesy ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / Terry Hughes.

Staff Report

Global warming has been driving the worst and longest episode of coral reef bleaching on record, and the event is hitting the Great Barrier Reef especially hard. Australian scientists this week said their latest aerial surveys of more than 500 reefs show that the most pristine section of the Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing the worst, mass bleaching event in its history, with the overwhelming majority of reefs being ranked in the most severe bleaching category.

Widespread coral reef bleaching started in 2014, even before El Niño kicked into high gear. As forecasts for this year’s El Niño became more certain, ocean scientists warned in advance that widespread bleaching, spurred by warm ocean temperatures, would occur. There’s plenty of research that enables scientists to project bleaching events, and last November, NOAA warned that reefs around the world would be affected this year. In February, NOAA announced that record and near-record ocean temperatures are prolonging the longest global coral die-off on record.

The latest data from the Australian researchers confirms all the projections and worst fears that global warming will likely decimate most coral reefs worldwide. That, in turn, could affect entire ocean ecosystems, since reefs are the nurseries of the seas.

“This has been the saddest research trip of my life,” said Prof. Terry Hughes, with Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “Almost without exception, every reef we flew across showed consistently high levels of bleaching, from the reef slope right up onto the top of the reef. We flew for 4,000 kilometers in the most pristine parts of the Great Barrier Reef and saw only four reefs that had no bleaching. The severity is much greater than in earlier bleaching events in 2002 or 1998,” Hughes said. Continue reading “Australian scientists document massive coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef”

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

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

sdfg
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”