When we look at the state of corals globally, it can be difficult to see a silver lining, but a recent paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science shows hope for corals in unlikely places. In the study, scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science compared the molecular processes of brain corals (Pseudodiploria strigosa) living in urban waters at the Port of Miami with offshore corals at Emerald Reef. They found the urban corals had adapted to challenging conditions that helped them differentiate and consume healthy food particles over diseased organisms.
AOML’s newest issue of the Keynotes Newsletter is now live! This issue offers in-depth research highlights about new technology for the 2021 hurricane season, the ocean’s role in fueling hurricanes, new uses for Ship of Opportunity Data, new research on heat tolerant corals, eDNA and it’s connection to marine food webs, new sargassum tracking tools, recent publications, and more.
It can be hard to stay upbeat as a marine biologist, especially with the onslaught of existential threats like climate change facing the planet. Coral reefs are arguably the ecosystem that stands to lose the most with respect to climate change, namely because the resident organisms are highly sensitive to elevated temperatures. Furthermore, the limestone-based reef framework itself is diminishing before our eyes due to the accompanying rise in carbon dioxide levels (which decreases oceanic pH, leading to ocean acidification). That being said, there are corals out there that display resilience, continuing to thrive in habitats that would appear decidedly marginalized to even the untrained eye.
Coral scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) will be presenting their research at the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) from July 19-23, 2021, which will be held virtually for the first time in the history of the ICRS.
In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the time frame of 2021-2030 as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, also known as the “Ocean Decade,” to address the degradation of the ocean and encourage innovative science initiatives to better understand and ultimately reverse its declining health.
Dr. Nastassia Patin, a Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) scientist working at AOML, recently spent three weeks aboard the NOAA ship Reuben Lasker collecting environmental DNA (eDNA) from water samples in support of the Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (RREAS).
A recent study by researchers at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory shows that coral growth observed in symmetrical brain corals (Pseudodiploria strigosa) and mountainous star corals (Orbicella faveolata) in the Flower Garden Banks reefs, in the Gulf of Mexico, are linked to warming sea surface temperatures.
A new study by researchers at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory suggests that outplanting corals, specifically staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) from higher temperature waters to cooler waters, may be a better strategy to help corals recover from certain stressors. The researchers found that corals from reefs with higher average water temperatures showed greater healing than corals from cooler waters when exposed to heat stress.
To help improve the long term survival of nursery raised staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), Ruben van Hooidonk, a coral scientist with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies has developed a new experimental mapping tool i that ranks suitable outplant locations. There are currently at least seven coral nurseries in Florida that cultivate staghorn coral, representing one of the best opportunities to maintain resilient populations of this species.
In absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), the oceans play a crucial role in regulating the climate, a role yet to be fully understood. However, the oceans’ ability to contribute to climate regulation may decline and even be reversed in the future. The oceans that are now the blue lungs of our planet, could end up contributing to global warming.