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.
Recently the UN Environment Programme Report on coral bleaching projections for 2020 was published, updating work that was done in 2017 using a previous generation of global climate models to project coral reef bleaching globally. The report shows some interesting new results. Ruben van Hooidonk, a coral researcher at AOML and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, was the lead author of the report.
AOML and SEFSC Researchers Embark on a New Collaborative Effort to Understand the Impacts of Climate on Economically Important Fish Species
NOAA’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) program is funding a new collaborative project between the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) to understand how a changing climate might be influencing commercially important fish stocks. This project will identify key climate and oceanic processes that affect the biology and chemistry of the ocean of relevance to the coastal open ocean species in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Bight, managed by NOAA Fisheries and the regional Fishery Management Councils.
Last week AOML and CIMAS coral researchers, Graham Kolodziej, Anderson Mayfield, and Derek Manzello, entered the ocean off of the Upper Florida Keys to collect tiny floating balls being released from the protected mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata). Taking place shortly after moonrise, the spawning process is a visually beautiful part of the circle of life for corals, releasing gametes into the ocean water to become fertilized and eventually settle to create new corals stony coral colonies.
NOAA contributed to a study published today in the journal Nature that compares the upward growth rates of coral reefs with predicted rates of sea-level rise and found many reefs would be submerged in water so deep it will hamper their growth and survival. The study was done by an international team of scientists led by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
A recent study by AOML and partners identified coral communities at Cheeca Rocks in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that appear to be more resilient than other nearby reefs to coral bleaching after back to back record breaking hot summers in 2014 and 2015 and increasingly warmer waters. This local case study provides a small, tempered degree of optimism that some Caribbean coral communities may be able to acclimate to warming waters.
From March 1st through March 3rd, AOML coral scientists traveled to reefs in the Upper and Lower Florida Keys to swap out instruments being used for an ongoing coral bleaching study. Both pH and light loggers were collected and deployed at inshore and offshore study sites.
AOML coral researchers conducted a number of reef monitoring activities during the month of October at Cheeca Rocks off of Islamorada, Florida. Among the activities was the installation of new sensors to measure pH and photosynthetic light levels at the on-site MapCO2 buoy. The team also conducted benthic surveys and deployed a pH sensor at an inshore patch reef where they are conducting an experiment to examine the impacts of bleaching across Florida Keys reefs. They were also joined by a colleague from the University of Miami who conducted photo mosaic surveys of the reefs. A photo mosaic is a tool used by researchers to map reefscapes and involves the stitching together of hundreds of photos taken simultaneously across the reef to form one giant image. Photo mosaics provide coral researchers with an important tool to more accurately document community-wide changes in reef health.
For the third time in recorded history, a massive coral bleaching event is unfolding throughout the world’s oceans, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. Above average sea surface temperatures exacerbated by a strong El Niño could result in the planet losing up to 4,500 square miles of coral this year alone, according to NOAA. The global event is predicted to continue to impact reefs into the spring of 2016.