2017 brought us the disheartening news of extensive damage done to coral reefs around the globe. Most reported was the coral bleaching that destroyed large sections of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Combined with the previous year’s bleaching, nearly two thirds or 1500 kilometers of the reef has been severely affected.
But the destruction was much wider than the Great Barrier Reef, as we reported in our article: Extensive Coral Bleaching Found throughout the Pacific coral bleaching has been reported from Samoa to Japan and into the South China Sea.
We also told you of a not-to-be-missed documentary, see: Chasing Coral.
Can We Save Our Coral Reefs?
The widespread devastation seen on our coral reefs has galvanized legions of dedicated individuals to take, action. What started out as modest operations like that of the Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys have grown into industrial strength movements like that of the Mote Marine Laboratory that has developed new processes that greatly increase the speed of coral growth. (photo – Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science)
These nurseries are producing varieties of coral that are more tolerant of warmer ocean temperatures and more resilient to future coral bleaching events. See: Coral Gardening: Viability and Necessity!
Art into Artificial Reefs
Ships being sunk to create a habitat for corals to attach to and marine life to find shelter in is nothing new. However, one of the most interesting examples is a sunken ship that is also a piece of art, see: The Kraken sited off Virgin Gordo.
This modern-day sea monster was the brain child of Owen Buggy, a British photographer and the artist group Samurai Productions, backed by Sir Richard Branson. The result is an 80’ long, steel sculpture of a kraken entwined upon the wreck of the Kodiak Queen, a former Navy ship, sunk in shallow waters off Virgin Gordo in the British Virgin Islands.
“Everything from corals to sea sponges, sharks and turtles will live on, in and around the wreck” said Clive Petrovic.
Science Fiction becomes Science Fact
Efforts to create new coral reefs have taken a futuristic turn in replicating corals by 3-D printing. These “fake” coral reefs, although not alive, look the part and provide an environment that marine life can thrive in.
Another important benefit of 3-D corals is that they are not vulnerable to ocean warming or acidification. This is not science fiction, but science fact and examples are found in the Mediterranean, Australia and off Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. An installation was started by Fabien Cousteau in 2012 in waters off Bonaire in the Caribbean. See: Saving Coral reefs; With Innovation. (photo – 3D Printing Industry)
Glimmers of Hope
Although much of the news regarding the health of our coral reefs has been disappointing there have been some glimmers of hope, especially in two news stories that highlighted the resiliency of nature. One article gives us cautious hope that the Great Barrier Reef shows some signs of being able to heal itself. In research conducted by Australian marine scientists it was discovered that a small percent of coral, roughly 3% were “robust source reefs” in other words, able to resist coral bleaching events, and other threats like crown-of -thorn outbreaks.
To be effective these source reefs must be well connected by ocean currents to other areas of the reef system. “The presence of these well-connected reefs on the Great Barrier Reef means that the whole system of coral reefs possesses a level of resilience that may help it bounce back from disturbances,” said Karlo Hock of the University of Queensland. (photo – Lock the Gate Alliance)
Red Sea Refuge!
A similar phenomenon has been seen in the northern part of the Red Sea where native corals have shown an ability to survive ocean warming events. (photo – kaetidh/flickr)
By comparing bleaching events since the early 1980’s, marine scientists were able to determine that corals in the Gulf of Aqaba had a margin of 5 degree Celsius in resisting the thermal stress caused by ocean warming. See our article: Can Coral find refuge in the Red Sea?
Invasive Species Threaten Coral Reef Ecosystems
Lionfish, are a favorite subject of underwater photographers for their array of graceful fins, however they are not a favorite in the Gulf of Mexico where they are a serious invasive threat to native marine life. Attempts to manage lionfish range from spearing them; cookbooks that suggest filleting them; setting traps to encapsulate them; and training sharks to devour them.
So, take your pick, you should be able to find fresh lionfish at the Whole Foods Store near you, if you live in Florida and at $8.99 a pound it’s a delicious deal, beware of the spines.
If you prefer to eat out there are a number of restaurants that now serve lionfish and if you are driving past the Lion’s Club in Miami Springs you might want to drop in on their Fish Fry and Family Dinner featuring Lionfish and Live Music. (photo – Roatan Tourism) See: What you need to know about Lionfish!
Not to diminish in any way, all of the heroic efforts to save coral reefs, the real answer to the question, Can We Save Coral Reefs? is a consistent effort to control global warming and it’s repercussions of ocean warming and ocean acidification.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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