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.
AOML’s Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP) rolled out a new data source in October as part of its online data query tool. Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Temperatures, or OISSTs, are data from microwave satellite observation platforms, products that are sourced from Remote Sensing Systems. Whereas other sea surface temperature sources might be missing data due to orbital gaps or non-ideal environmental conditions such as cloud cover or rainfall, the OISST platform corrects for these errors to provide a complete, daily sea surface temperature map that can benefit coral health and monitoring efforts worldwide.
AOML coral scientists participated in a NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service-led project to document coral spawning in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary during August & September 2015. The project aims to measure spawning success for two imperiled Caribbean species, elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) in the Florida Keys. The team collected gametes from both species to be used in experiments that aim to improve the understanding of factors that may enhance the likelihood of coral larvae to survive and settle on the ocean floor. Experiments will also assess impacts of current and future global environmental changes, such as ocean acidification, on these vulnerable early life stages of corals. Click on the image below to view a video of a spawning mountainous star colony.
Photo and Video credit: NOAA
Members of AOML’s Acidification, Climate, and Coral Reef Ecosystems Team (ACCRETE) recently traveled to two remote reef locations to expand the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s (NCRMP) network of sentinel climate and ocean acidification monitoring sites. The newly established sites, located in the Flower Garden Banks and the Dry Tortugas, will provide researchers with additional data and insights into the ocean’s changing chemistry and the progression of ocean acidification, as well as the ecological impacts of these variables across the Caribbean basin and the Gulf of Mexico.
This summer, AOML will be diving into a new outreach initiative with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, a coral reef research organization based in the Cayman Islands. From June through August, NOAA oceanographers from AOML will give a series of talks on various oceanographic topics to the institute’s staff and students participating in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the institute’s Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC).
During the months of March & April, AOML researchers participated in the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition cruise which took place in the waters of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Some of the areas explored included the Maldives and the Chagos archipelago, home to the world’s largest Marine Protected Area. Aboard the R/V Golden Shadow and working under the theme “Science Without Borders,” the Global Reef Expedition team researches remote coral reef locations around the globe documenting their health to better understand which factors are crucial to reef resilience. AOML has participated in 12 Global Reef Expedition cruises since June 2012.
In a new study published April 1 in Global Change Biology, NOAA oceanographers and colleagues have developed a new method to produce high-resolution projections of the range and onset of severe annual coral bleaching for reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean
AOML scientists conducted a Numeric Nutrient Criteria Study cruise Wednesday and Thursday, March 18-19th in Biscayne Bay off of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties aboard the NOAA R/V Hildebrand. The study provides concurrent water column and coral reef status data for four coral assemblies off of Miami-Dade and Broward County. These results will be employed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to determine numeric nutrient criteria for the coastal waters of Southeast Florida.
A study of Galápagos’ coral reefs provides evidence that reefs exposed to lower pH and higher nutrient levels may be the most affected and least resilient to changes in climate and ocean chemistry.