NFL Green Tackles Coral Restoration Project in Florida Ahead of Super Bowl LV
When we think of the Super Bowl — America's most popular sporting event, according to Arcadia Publishing — ocean conservation and military veterans usually aren't top of mind. But, for the last two years, a unique collaboration ahead of the annual game has placed coral restoration at the forefront of the world's attention.
For almost 30 years, NFL Green, the NFL's environmental and sustainability program, has managed community greening initiatives for the sports league. Each season, these culminate with "Green Week" before the big event, with projects undertaken by the NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee benefitting each host community, explained NFL Green Associate Director Susan Groh.
"The goal of NFL Green is to reduce the environmental impact of our events and to go well beyond that to leave a positive green legacy," Groh told EcoWatch. Efforts include recovering food, recycling and waste management, donating used event and building materials and offsetting energy for events.
This green legacy has also included a touch of blue in the last two years, meaning conservation efforts focused on the waters of host cities Miami in 2020 and now Tampa in 2021. Miami Green Week activities for Super Bowl LIV entailed planting 100 endangered staghorn corals in Biscayne Bay in honor of the NFL's 100th season, Groh said.
In the past year, the effort expanded to "100 Yards of Hope," a football field-sized coral restoration project. The end zones and center of the field-sized reef were placed in fall 2020, followed by divers planting thousands of staghorn and mountainous star corals from The Florida Aquarium (FLAQ), the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science SECORE International and Frost Science, explained FLAQ Senior Vice President of Conservation Debborah Luke.
Military veterans and coral scientists team up to outplant endangered corals as part of the NFL's 100 Yards of Hope. Force Blue
"This critically important project is helping to restore Florida's Coral Reef, the third-largest barrier reef in the world, which is in crisis," Luke told EcoWatch.
Florida's Coral Reef provides key nursery areas that support the oceanic ecosystem and protect coastlines from storms and erosion, Luke said. It also provides significant economic benefits by pumping $3.4 billion annually into the U.S. economy through jobs, tourism, seafood and medicine, NFL's Groh added.
"Over 90 percent of [the reef's] corals have died... restoration of Florida's Coral Reef is imperative if we are to continue reaping [its] benefits," Luke said.
100 Yards of Hope intends to reverse this trajectory on a single showcase reef, explained Dalton Hesley, a senior research associate at the Rosenstiel School, whose team spearheaded restoration efforts. This is the first large-scale restoration project to combine thousands of sexual and asexual multi-species coral transplants, along with disease tracking and mitigation, urchin relocation and high-resolution mapping. These actions all increase coral cover, diversity and recovery, Hesley noted.
"100 Yards of Hope is a symbol. It is a symbol of what passionate, hopeful individuals can accomplish when working towards a shared vision," Hesley told EcoWatch. "What started as a celebration of the NFL's 100th season has transformed into a fight for the future of our coral reef."
Last week, 150 elkhorn corals, another threatened coral species, were added to the field. The Rosenstiel School provided 55 of the endangered corals, in celebration of Super Bowl 55, this past weekend. FLAQ provided the remaining corals. A final planting of massive brain and star corals in the spring will complete 100 Yards of Hope, Groh said.
Military combat veterans from Force Blue assisted with the plantings. The nonprofit retrains and deploys former special operations veterans and military-trained combat divers to work alongside scientists and environmentalists on marine conservation work, explained Executive Director Jim Ritterhoff.
55 divers remove marine debris from Tampa Bay as part of the NFL's Green Week. Force Blue
"If we can do something good for veterans by giving them a new mission to save the planet and provide a highly skilled workforce to the scientific community, all the better," Ritterhoff said. "But, maybe the [touchdown] of it all is how this effort uses Navy SEALS and the NFL, people you don't traditionally see talking about conservation, to reach an audience who wouldn't necessarily pay attention to coral reef scientists. People listen because these guys are their heroes."
Noting that this is more of a world project than a local Florida project, Ritterhoff added, "I think it's imperative that everyone be cognizant of these issues. The Florida Coral Reef is a national treasure, and it could be 100 percent gone in our lifetime. If we don't behave differently, it will be gone."
NFL Green Week included planting the Reed Park community garden in Tampa Bay. Michael Farrant / Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee
In addition to the coral restoration efforts, NFL Green completed traditional community greening projects. These involved creating pollinator gardens, planting mangroves, restoring shoreline and adding sand dunes to prevent erosion and storm damage.
NFL Green also connected land and sea with an underwater cleanup called Dive 55 at the mouth of Tampa Bay. For this, Force Blue team leaders led 55 divers to retrieve more than 1.5 tons of waste, not limited to old fishing traps, rope, netting, plastics and beach debris, Groh said. Some of the recovered items will be used by local students to create art projects that will be displayed at FLAQ to increase marine debris awareness.
"It's all about leadership and legacy," Groh said. "Large events have an opportunity to not only offset the environmental impact of their events but to go well beyond that and leave the communities hosting events better than they found them. The world faces significant environmental challenges and it's going to take all of us to address them."
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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