updated 9/26/2012 3:51:26 PM ET
A survey of underwater canyons off the U.S. East Coast found a number of previously unknown hotspots for deep-sea corals.
The exploration, the first to look for corals and sponges in the area in decades, is helping researchers develop a computer model to determine where other coral hotspots might be found.
The survey took place over a two-week stretch in July. Researchers aboard the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Henry B. Bigelow ship looked for corals in submarine canyons off New Jersey, and connected to Georges Bank, a large elevated area of seafloor about 60 miles (100 kilometers) offshore that stretches as far south as Cape Cod, Mass., and north to Nova Scotia.
“The deep-sea coral and sponge habitats observed in the canyons are not like those found in shallow-water tropical reefs or deep-sea coral habitats in other regions,” said Martha Nizinski, chief scientist of the research cruise, in a statement. “We know very little about the distribution and ecology of corals in the canyons off the Northeast coast. Although our explorations have just begun, we’ve already increased our knowledge about these deepwater coral habitats a hundred times over.”
by Underwatertimes.com News Service – September 24, 2012 21:01 EST
SILVER SPRING, Marlyland — Carbon dioxide released from decaying algal blooms, combined with ongoing increases in atmospheric carbon emissions, leads to increased levels of ocean acidification, and places additional stress on marine resources and the coastal economies that depend on them, according to a new study published today.
Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from the breakdown of organic matter, which then causes a chemical reaction to make it more acidic. Species as diverse as scallops and corals are vulnerable to ocean acidification, which can affect the growth of their shells and skeletons.
Research by NOAA’s William G. Sunda and Wei-jun Cai of the University of Georgia points to the process of eutrophication – the production of excess algae from increased nutrients, such as, nitrogen and phosphorus — as a large, often overlooked source of CO2 in coastal waters. When combined with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, the release of CO2 from decaying organic matter is accelerating the acidification of coastal seawater.
The effects of ocean acidification on the nation’s seafood industry are seen in the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery. According to NOAA, ocean acidification is affecting oyster shell growth and reproduction, putting this multi-million dollar industry at risk. Annually, the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery contributes $84 million to $111 million to the West Coast’s economy. According to an earlier NOAA study ocean acidification could put more than 3,000 jobs in the region at risk. Read more
9:54 AM HST Sep 22, 2012
A mysterious coral die-off on Kauai’s north shore is prompting a team of scientists to take a closer look at what may be killing large areas of coral reef.
Marine biologist Terry Lilley has been monitoring and documenting Kauai’s marine environment for the last decade or more.
This summer he was struck at how fast he was seeing something kill off what he estimates are millions of coral colonies.
“Something is damaging the reefs in the whole part of the island so it has to be something relatively big,” said Lilley.
Lilley contacted scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey who’ve determined the diseased coral is different from what killed coral heads in Kaneohe Bay last year.
ScienceDaily (Aug. 29, 2012) — Marine conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society working with other coral reef experts have identified heat-tolerant coral species living in locations with continuous background temperature variability as those having the best chance of surviving climate change, according to a new simplified method for measuring coral reef resilience.
Therefore, coral reefs with these characteristics should receive immediate attention for conserving this highly threatened ecosystem, according to the authors of a study appearing August 30 in the online journal PLoS ONE.
The bewildering diversity of coral reef environments has made assessing and prioritizing them costly, and yet they require immediate action to respond to the threats of climate change. Combining expert opinion and scientific evidence, the scientists developed a simplified assessment that reduces this complexity to 11 key and easily measured factors. This finding greatly simplifies and reduces the time needed for assessments and, therefore, gives coral reef managers a cost-effective, evidence-based tool for gauging a reef’s chances of survival. Read the full article
By Nina Chestney
(Reuters) – Bottom trawling by fishermen, long believed to harm marine life, may be even more damaging than previously thought, affecting the seabed as seriously as intensive ploughing of farmland erodes the soil, according to a new Spanish study.
Bottom trawling – dragging nets across the sea floor to scoop up fish – stirs up the sediment lying on the seabed, displaces or harms some marine species, causes pollutants to mix into plankton and move into the food chain and creates harmful algae blooms or oxygen-deficient dead zones.
Scientists from the Marine Sciences Institute in Barcelona and the University of Barcelona found that trawling displaced sea floor sediment and made the seabed smoother over time.
“Bottom trawling has been compared to forest clear-cutting, although our results suggest that a better comparison might be intensive agricultural activities,” they said in a study published on the journal Nature’s website on Wednesday.
During the 20th century, more intensive farming techniques and changes in land use reduced the diversity of landscapes almost everywhere, the study said.
Ploughing up land exposes the top soil to erosion by wind and water, destroying or weakening nutrients in the soil which are essential for many plant species to survive.
Fishing has also become increasingly industrial. As technology has improved and traditional fish stocks have been depleted, trawling fleets have gone into ever deeper waters in search of fish.
As with soil, the seabed is composed of layers of sediment, holding nutrients that are vital for marine life. Read the full article
9 September 2012
By Matt Bardo Reporter, BBC Nature.
Lemon sharks have the ability to learn from each other’s behaviour, scientists have found.
The team compared the performance of inexperienced juvenile sharks working with both trained and untrained partners.
The results showed that sharks working with trained partners could complete tasks more quickly and successfully.
The study is thought to be the first to demonstrate social learning in any cartilaginous fish.
“I think it’s a really cool finding,” said lead author Dr Tristan Guttridge, director of the Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, whose paper was published in the Journal of Animal Cognition. Read the full article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19484530
ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012) — Research from the University of Southampton and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton has found that an imbalance of nutrients in reef waters can increase the bleaching susceptibility of reef corals.
Corals are made up of many polyps that jointly form a layer of living tissue covering the calcareous skeletons. They depend on single-celled algae called zooxanthellae, which live within the coral polyps.
The coral animal and the associated zooxanthellae depend on each other for survival in a symbiotic relationship, where the coral supplies the algae with nutrients and a place to live. In turn, the algae offer the coral some products of their photosynthesis, providing them with an important energy source.
High water temperatures can block photosynthetic reactions in the algal cells causing a build-up of toxic oxygen compounds, which threaten the coral and can result in a loss of the zooxanthellae.
Without the algae, corals appear white, a state which is often referred to as ‘bleached’. Bleaching often leads to coral death and mass coral bleaching has had already devastating effects on coral reef ecosystems. Read more at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120819153617.htm
Written by: Fabien Cousteau. reposted from http://www.fastcoexist.com/
Fabien Cousteau paid a visit to Sylvia Earle and the underwater base in danger of losing its funding, and says that the work they’re doing there must be allowed to continue.
Not long ago, the general consensus was that our planet was flat. Sailing to the horizon would bring certain doom to unwary sailors who feared falling off its edge into oblivion. Lucky for us, some brave adventurers tested pioneering scientific theories of the day and risked their lives to challenge this notion: They sailed to the edge and beyond. It is this spirit of exploration and pushing our boundaries of knowledge that allows us to learn about this “oasis in space” and how we fit within its web of life.
Published On: Aug 08 2012 06:27:40 PM EDT. http://www.local10.com/
KEY LARGO, Fla. -
For the first time ever, scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have documented male and female pillar corals spawning.
Saturday, researchers diving off Key Largo witnessed male pillar coral colonies releasing clouds of milky sperm, followed by females a few minutes later discharging eggs.
By Stephen Leahy. INTER PRESS SERVICE. July 31, 2012
CAIRNS, Australia, Jul 24 2012 (IPS) – Most corals thrive only in shallow waters, where there is enough light for them to grow. But the rapid rise in sea level, due to the melting of polar ice, is making these conditions increasingly scarce.
Measurements from tropical seas around the world reveal that the rise in sea level (3.3 mm/year) is happening at a faster rate than many corals have grown in the past 10,000 years, according to new research released at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS).
“The Caribbean once had 60 percent coral cover, and that has now collapsed to 10 percent,” said Jeremy Jackson, professor emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, in a special address to the symposium, held Jul. 9-13 in Cairns, Australia. “Corals are critical and endangered ecosystems.”
Sea-level rise is just one threat to corals, which have been decimated by overfishing, pollution, and bleaching from warmer sea temperatures due to climate change, Jackson added.
A colorful piece of coral is made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, which create cup-like limestone skeletons around themselves using calcium from seawater. Coral gets its beautiful colors from microalgae that live symbiotically with it. Read the full article at http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/scientists-discover-new-threats-to-corals/