By Nancy Schimelpfening
Consumers looking to buy disinfectant sprays and wipes may be out of luck for a while.
Why Disinfectants Are in Short Supply<p>Prior to the pandemic, demand for disinfectants was fairly stable, with only small increases seen during flu season.</p><p>Production facilities were equipped to handle the normally expected demand.</p><p>However, people's fears about the virus sparked panic buying and hoarding.</p><p>"This was not a huge industry before the spike in demand," said Welborn. "There was not a great deal of excess capacity in the production process."</p><p>In addition — according to <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sgrawe/" target="_blank">Scott Grawe</a>, PhD, chair of the department of supply chain management at Iowa State University — companies don't tend to keep a lot of stock on hand. Storing it is expensive and it keeps costs down if they don't stockpile it.</p><p>As a result, manufacturers are struggling to keep up.</p><p>Grawe said an additional problem is that as more disinfectant products become available, suppliers upstream from retailers must decide where to send them first.</p><p>Often, they end up going directly to healthcare facilities and industrial customers first due to their greater need for larger quantities of product.</p>
What Manufacturers Are Doing to Remedy the Situation<p>Grawe said one of the things that manufacturers may be doing to increase the supply of disinfectants is to look for nontraditional suppliers of ingredients.</p><p>For example, quite a few <a href="https://www.distilledspirits.org/distillers-responding-to-covid-19/distilleries-making-hand-sanitizer/" target="_blank">distilleries</a> have stepped in to make hand sanitizer for their local communities.</p><p>Also, manufacturers may be temporarily curtailing their production of more profitable products in order to focus on their customers' increased need for disinfectants.</p><p>Welborn said another strategy manufacturers may be employing is to limit the number of different products they're making. This increases their efficiency and enables them to increase output.</p><p>He also noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expanding its list of approved disinfectants, adding 91 new products in the month of April.</p>
How Long Can We Expect Shortages to Exist?<p>"This is a tough question," said Grawe.</p><p>Firms want to catch up to demand and replenish their inventory, he said.</p><p>However, they're also likely to be cautious that they don't flood the market.</p><p>Demand will at some point return to a steady level, although it's unclear whether it will return to the same level as before or whether there will be a new, elevated "normal," he said.</p><p>As new sectors of the economy open up, there will probably be an increase in demand for disinfectants. This may lead to regional shortages for a period of time.</p><p>Grawe said, however, that he expects supply and demand to balance out after most closed businesses have reopened.</p>
What You Can Do in the Meantime<p><a href="https://ghss.georgetown.edu/people/fischer/" target="_blank">Julie Fischer</a>, PhD, associate research professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University, said as long as you have access to soap and water you can do an effective job at eliminating SARS-CoV-2 from your hands.</p><p>No special soap is needed, she said. Any bar or liquid soap will work.</p><p>Just wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds.</p><p>If you don't have access to soap and water, hand sanitizers are a good substitute.</p><p>With commercial products being in short supply, Fischer noted that many people have turned to making <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/coronavirus-hand-sanitizer-recipes-risks" target="_blank">homemade hand sanitizers</a> using either isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or ethanol (liquor) mixed with aloe vera.</p><p>The important thing to keep in mind with many recipes found on the internet, she said, is making certain they yield the correct concentration of alcohol.</p><p>The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/hand-hygiene.html" target="_blank">recommendsTrusted Source</a> a concentration of greater than 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.</p><p>Many home recipes fall short of these recommendations, Fischer said. You'll want to double check the math on any recipe you use.</p><p>For the disinfection of surfaces within your home, Fischer said diluted household bleach works well.</p><p>Make sure it's household bleach, not a bleach alternative such as color-safe or chlorine-free bleach.</p><p>Dilute it using 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water (or 4 teaspoons per quart).</p><p>Allow the bleach solution to sit on the surface for at least 10 minutes and re-wet if it dries out more quickly than that.</p><p>Diluted bleach should be discarded within 24 hours and kept in an opaque container since it degrades and becomes ineffective fairly quickly.</p><p>Fischer said a solution containing at least 70 percent alcohol diluted in water is also a good option for disinfecting surfaces.</p><p>Use a spray bottle to apply it and leave it on the surface for at least 30 seconds before wiping it away to allow time for it to inactivate the virus.</p><p>Fischer cautions that both bleach and alcohol can be drying to your skin, so wear gloves to protect your hands.</p><p>Use these disinfectants in well-ventilated areas.</p><p>Also, you should use only water to dilute bleach. Other cleaning products may interact with it to release dangerous vapors.</p><p>Finally, she added, you should rinse the surfaces afterward with water to remove any remaining residue.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has created a large increase in demand for spray disinfectants and wipes, leading to shortages.</p><p>Although manufacturers are currently struggling to adjust, supply and demand will eventually balance out, probably once businesses have reopened.</p><p>Alternatives to spray disinfectants and wipes — such as good <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/washing-hands" target="_blank">handwashing</a> techniques and bleach or alcohol solutions — can help fill the void until adequate supplies of these products become available again.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that warmer weather will kill COVID-19 and allow the country to resume its normal behavior. At a White House press briefing, he theorized dangerously about the power of sunlight, ultraviolet light, and disinfectant injections to rid the body of the novel coronavirus, as The New York Times reported.
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By Jon Queally
President Donald Trump at a White House press conference on Friday announced he was "terminating" ties to the World Health Organization, even as the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic nears 363,000 — including the more than 100,000 dead from the virus in the U.S., many attributed to his own mismanagement of the crisis.
Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Many types of flour are commonly available on the shelves of your local supermarket.
Differences Between Bleached and Unbleached Flour<p>Bleached and unbleached flour differ in certain ways, including processing, taste, texture, and appearance.</p><p><strong>Processing</strong></p><p>One of the most notable differences between bleached and unbleached flour is the way that they're processed.</p><p>Bleached flour is typically refined, meaning that the nutrient-rich <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wheat-bran" target="_blank">bran</a> and germ of the wheat kernel have been removed, stripping the grain of many of its valuable vitamins and minerals and leaving only the endosperm.</p><p>Unbleached flour can include any type of flour, which may or may not be refined.</p><p>Both types are then milled, which is a process that involves grinding <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/grains-good-or-bad" target="_blank">grains</a>, such as wheat, into a fine powder.</p><p>Next, bleached flour is treated with chemical agents like benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, or chlorine, which helps speed up the aging of the flour. Flour is aged to improve certain qualities for baking.</p><p>This chemical process significantly changes the taste, texture, and appearance of the final product, as well as its nutritional profile and potential uses in baking.</p><p>On the other hand, unbleached flour is aged naturally after the milling process is completed. Natural aging takes significantly longer than the bleaching process, which is why bleached flour was created.</p><p>Unbleached flour is used in certain recipes due to its distinct texture.</p><p>Both varieties are sometimes enriched, which is the process of adding certain nutrients back into the flour (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208880/" target="_blank">1Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Characteristics</strong></p><p>The bleaching process produces many changes in the taste, texture, and appearance of flour.</p><p>The chemicals used to speed up the aging process in bleached flour cause it to have a whiter color, finer grain, and softer texture.</p><p>Conversely, unbleached flour has a denser grain and tougher texture.</p><p>It also tends to have an off-white color, which fades naturally as it ages.</p><p>Though there are minimal differences in taste between the two varieties, people with a very sensitive palate may notice a slightly bitter taste in bleached flour.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Bleached flour has a whiter color, finer grain, and softer texture, while unbleached flour has a denser grain and tougher texture. Bleached flour is treated with chemical agents to speed up the aging process.</p>
Nutrient Profiles<p>The nutritional values of bleached and unbleached white flour are nearly identical.</p><p>Both varieties contain the same <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-many-calories-per-day" target="_blank">number of calories</a> and amounts of protein, fat, carbs, and fiber per cup (125 grams).</p><p>The bleaching process may decrease the vitamin E content slightly, but unbleached flour still contains only minimal amounts, with less than 2% of the Daily Value per cup (125 grams) (<a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168894/nutrients" target="_blank">2</a>, <a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168936/nutrients" target="_blank">3</a>).</p><p>However, unbleached, unrefined, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-of-whole-grains" target="_blank">whole-wheat</a> varieties may be richer in several important nutrients.</p><p>In particular, whole-wheat flour packs more fiber, vitamin E, manganese, copper, and antioxidants (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3507301/" target="_blank">4Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Both bleached and unbleached flours are also often enriched with B vitamins like folate, niacin, vitamin B6, and thiamine (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK208880/" target="_blank">1Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Bleached and unbleached white flours are nearly identical in terms of nutrition. Other varieties of unbleached flour, such as whole-wheat flour, may contain more fiber, vitamin E, manganese, copper, and antioxidants.</p>
Safety<p>Bleached flour is treated with several chemical agents to help speed up the aging process.</p><p>The safety of these chemicals has often been called into question.</p><p>For example, potassium bromate, which is a common <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-food-additives" target="_blank">additive</a> used in bread-making, has been linked to kidney damage and cancer in some animal studies (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5816001/" target="_blank">5Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23913267" target="_blank">6Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4352022/" target="_blank">7Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9789944" target="_blank">8Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Though it's illegal in the European Union, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Nigeria, it remains legal and widely used in the United States.</p><p>Benzoyl peroxide is another common food additive that is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (<a href="https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1157" target="_blank">9</a>).</p><p>Still, some test-tube and animal studies have found that it may harm your antioxidant status and break down certain nutrients in foods, including essential fatty acids (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21787719" target="_blank">10Trusted Source</a>, <a href="http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agns/pdf/jecfa/cta/63/Benzoylperoxide.pdf" target="_blank">11</a>).</p><p>Keep in mind that most current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies using very high doses of these chemical compounds.</p><p>Therefore, more studies in humans are needed to evaluate the safety of bleached flour when consumed in normal amounts.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Some chemical compounds in bleached flour have been linked to adverse effects in animal and test-tube studies. More research in humans is needed to evaluate the safety of these bleaching agents.</p>
Uses<p>Due to their variations in texture, each type of flour may be better-suited for certain recipes.</p><p>Bleached flour has a finer grain and absorbs more liquid, which works well for foods like cookies, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-worst-foods-in-the-morning" target="_blank">pancakes</a>, waffles, quick breads, and pie crusts.</p><p>Meanwhile, the denser texture of unbleached flour can help baked goods hold their shape a bit better, making it a good fit for puff pastries, eclairs, yeast breads, and popovers.</p><p>That said, both types can be used interchangeably in most baked goods without significantly altering the final product or needing to adjust other ingredients in your recipe.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Bleached flour works well in recipes like cookies, pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and pie crusts. Meanwhile, unbleached flour is better suited for puff pastries, eclairs, yeast breads, and popovers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Bleached flour is treated with chemicals to speed up the aging process, whereas unbleached flour is aged naturally.</p><p>Both types also differ in texture, appearance, and potential uses.</p><p>Opting for unbleached, whole-wheat flour may increase your intake of several nutrients and minimize your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.</p><p>Still, both varieties can be used interchangeably in most recipes without significantly altering the final product.</p>
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images
Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.
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By Erica Cirino
Visit a coral reef off the coast of Miami or the Maldives and you may see fields of bleached white instead of a burst of colors.
Climate Change Threats<p>Though reefs cover less than 1 percent of Earth's surface, they support more than a million different species, including many types of algae — like sea grasses and sea lettuces — and a broad range of animals from starfish to shrimp to sharks, as well as people. Experts estimate that corals pull <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/corals/coral07_importance.html" target="_blank">$375 billion</a> into the global economy every year, mainly by fostering tourism, supporting fisheries, and contributing to medicine and storm protection.</p><p>Despite their value corals have been in decline for decades. Scientists responded by initiating the first reef-restoration efforts about 50 years ago. Since then restoration efforts have been tailored to meet the needs of corals prioritized at specific times and places. In the 1970s, as coastal development boomed, scientists focused on expanding corals' habitat by strategically placing shipwrecks, concrete pipes, tires and other manmade structures underwater on which corals could grow. By the early 2000s, scientists had become more interested in addressing other localized risks to reefs — such as overfishing, irresponsible tourism and invasive species.</p><p>But climate change poses an even more far-reaching threat.</p><p>Bleaching — a precursor to coral death caused by stressors including warming waters — has left nary a reef unscathed around the world. Most corals thrive in temperatures between 73-84 degrees Fahrenheit. Oceans naturally undergo seasonal warming, which leads to temperature fluctuations high enough to bleach some corals. In the past corals could recover from bleaching events once waters cooled. Scientists say it takes 15 to 25 years for a reef to recover from serious bleaching and become healthy enough to support a rich host of marine life. But today, with the relentless and extreme warming our oceans now face, corals are running out of possible recovery time. It's becoming much harder for them to make a comeback.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYyMDAzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTM4MTc0NX0.4yY0nPy9P2wVxS7-oQelaw25JhphOkf_kbxXGoam8k8/img.jpg?width=980" id="44834" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="313ce486f8f995a433918e52e6494828" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A major coral bleaching event on part of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0
Secret Weapon # 1: The Public<p>To stem this tide, restoration efforts now mostly involve growing corals in undersea nurseries and transplanting them onto dying reefs that are losing coral. Like saplings being replanted in a fallen forest, young corals can help regenerate an ecosystem that's becoming barren.</p><p>But the work can be expensive and labor-intensive. According to researchers it can cost <a href="https://datadryad.org/stash/dataset/doi:10.5061/dryad.rc0jn" target="_blank">more than $150,000</a> to restore one reef — a small fortune in low-income coastal communities that may struggle to find funding.</p><p>That's why restoration efforts have grown increasingly reliant on the help of citizen scientists. This has significantly reduced the high price tag of restoration by replacing paid labor with volunteers — without any noticeable decline in success. Research shows the growth and survival rate of the corals planted by citizen scientists is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1617138117301504" target="_blank">almost identical</a> to corals planted by experts. When handled properly, the corals replanted by volunteers survive at a rate of at least 80 percent, and often exceeds 90 percent, said Dalton Hesley, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Benthic Ecology and Coral Restoration Lab, who led that study.</p><p>"Replanting is an investment," Hesley said. "These corals should, in theory, live indefinitely, and you should expect to see growth over the years."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjQwODgwMX0.TpiaDcCidHgwJlZoyH_dYLp9Iuq0d38-Yh34jbwroHs/img.jpg?width=980" id="f7520" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fa1108fd8244c77a8b6657041c5892a5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A healthy staghorn coral colony two years after it was planted on a reef in the Florida Keys.
FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Secret Weapon # 2: Genetics<p>"On first glance replanting may seem like a distraction from mitigating climate change, which is what we have to do if we want to save reefs," said Andersen. But she says restoration can give corals a better chance — especially when they're coupled with recent efforts to supercharge replanting by <a href="https://www.newsdeeply.com/oceans/articles/2017/08/28/race-to-decode-coral-dna-to-save-worlds-reefs-from-extinction" target="_blank">genetically identifying</a> the most diverse and resilient species.</p><p>A well-planned, diverse reef is probably the best remedy to bleaching, Andersen said.</p><p>"I've heard of hundreds of restoration projects around the world, but none that have failed," she said. "But if one happened to fail, I would assume its leaders failed to create enough coral diversity."</p><p>Hesley agreed: "With high diversity there's strength."</p><p>Thousands of species of hard and soft corals have been identified to date, and each of these species has varying levels of resistance to stressors. Even within a species, scientists have identified different <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/116/21/10586" target="_blank">gene patterns</a> that can convey different benefits.</p><p>"Some corals grow very quickly, some are less prone to disease, some bleach less, some are hardier during storms, for example," Hesley said. "There's not one coral species or individual that excels across the board, so we must focus on creating high levels of coral diversity."</p><p>Larger-scale reef restoration projects, like the <a href="http://rescueareef.rsmas.miami.edu/" target="_blank">program</a> Hesley is involved in at the University of Miami, keep track of coral genetics using DNA analysis, ensuring coral diversity. Smaller-scale programs in rather remote places, like Andersen's project in the Maldives, often do not have in-house access to labs and genetics testing, which can be prohibitively expensive.</p><p>Andersen said these challenges require her to go through a complex research process and collaboration with coral geneticists on a different atoll to pinpoint the most and least resilient coral species. Then, she must carefully remove fragments of coral from reefs known to have survived past bleaching events so that they can be used to spawn more hardy corals. After that, she monitors the donor reef and fragments to ensure they stay healthy. These preliminary parts of the replanting process, which require permits and extraordinary precision, are left up to the professionals.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYyMDAzNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDQ4NjkyNn0.EJgvphllBv-4WXC6n2Q98AJJ1x5UNydcM2c7Ah-ITA0/img.jpg?width=980" id="cf825" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0b5fd81aa53152e76daf921add21a303" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Choosing coral parent colonies to aid reef restoration efforts.
FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Promise and Challenges<p>When it comes to giving dying corals another shot, Hesley acknowledged that coral reef restoration is not a perfect solution. He said finding adequate funding, staff and volunteer labor, and addressing the root causes of reef decline — climate change and local stressors to reef health — are lingering challenges.</p><p>However, Anderson said the benefits of reef restoration, especially those powered by citizen scientists, are strong compared to their drawbacks. This has led to projects cropping up on reefs all around the world, developed by scientists hired by research institutions and hotels alike.</p><p>One of the most exciting she's seen is a citizen-science restoration project led by Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University in Australia, who has developed a backpack-sized inflatable coral spawn catcher and nursery pool in which baby corals can grow until they're big enough to be replanted.</p><p>Of course, even volunteers can only do so much. Harrison has also pioneered use of robots to swiftly distribute baby corals onto nearly 7.5 acres of damaged reefs, doing a job in just six hours that would take several human hands at least a week. If perfected, it could put volunteer seeding efforts effectively out of business.</p><p>But there's always a role for people willing to help. After corals are propagated, whether it's by hand or machine, citizen scientists can help care for them in undersea nurseries.</p><p>All of this requires careful planning. Andersen emphasizes the importance of establishing clearly defined goals for restoration, based around a community's needs and available resources. Another aspect of a successful restoration effort, she said, is an effective and accessible training program that primes citizen scientists on how to participate and, ultimately, care about the future of corals.</p><p>And that ties into the fundamental reason why citizen science still matters: because restoration buys time for corals. Experts at the Smithsonian Research Institute have <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-0988-x" target="_blank">found</a> that the more living coral a reef has when exposed to highly acidic waters, the more likely it is to survive, instead of bleaching and dying.</p><p>Meanwhile, the efforts help to connect people to something that otherwise might stay out of sight and out of mind beneath the surface of the ocean.</p><p>"I don't think a lot of people who get involved in restoration initially have that emotional attachment to coral reefs simply because they haven't had a chance to care about them," Andersen said. "Restoration gives them the opportunity to make a connection, to really understand how dire the situation is, and to do something that can help."</p>
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In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.
Coral Reefs in Crisis<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/386250260" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fcffbfeac80dddb74a304966b7f5995a"></iframe><p>"Tropical coral reefs support an estimated quarter of all marine species: hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species, who rely on the reef for food, shelter, and a safe place to live and reproduce," the report says. "These complex ecosystems include hard and soft corals, sponges, crustaceans, molluscs, fish, sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, and much more—including 'foundation' and 'keystone' species such as corals and sea turtles."</p><p>The report also spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs as an "essential source of food, employment, income, and storm protection for coastal communities."</p><p>In terms of the economic value of coral reefs, EJF puts tourism and recreation at $9.6 billion, coastal protection at $9 billion, fisheries at $5.7 billion, and wildlife at $5.5 billion. Directly below the economic figures, the report features "a note of caution: Valuing biodiversity in this way is of course subjective, how do we put a value on a species' intrinsic right to exist?"</p>
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Scientists are racing to save coral reefs off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands from a virulent, deadly disease, Reuters reported Thursday, taking the unusual step of removing infected coral from the reef.
The spread of SCTLD along the Florida Reef Tract from 2014 to 2019.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary / NOAA<p>SCTLD has also been spotted off the coasts of St. Maarten, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Jamaica.<br></p><p>In Florida, it has impacted half of the stony corals that make up the Florida Reef Tract, including five <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/endangered-species" target="_self">endangered species</a>, <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/coral-reefs-threatened-mysterious-disease-compared-ebola-1461711" target="_blank">Newsweek reported</a>.</p><p>In addition to removing diseased coral, scientists have attempted to treat it by removing healthy corals and applying antibiotics directly to reefs, but scientists are also working on a long-term solution, including a potential probiotic, according to The BVI Beacon.<br></p><p>Scientists are also hoping to better understand the disease in order to find a cure.</p><p>"NOAA scientists are working with partners to identify a pathogen that causes the tissue loss, better characterize transmission of the disease, and understand the patterns of spread throughout the reef and overall impacts of the disease," Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator Dr. Andy Bruckner told Newsweek.</p><p>Corals around the world are more susceptible to disease because of the warmer <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/oceans" target="_self">ocean</a> temperatures caused by the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-change" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, according to <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-disease-ravages-coral-reefs-scientists-scramble-for-solutions" target="_blank">Yale Environment 360</a>. <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/coral-bleaching" target="_self">Coral bleaching</a>, when warm water forces coral to expel the algae that give them food and color, makes coral more likely to get sick.</p><p>The coral near Miami where the disease was first discovered had just endured both a dredging project and a bleaching event, scientists told Reuters.</p>
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This month corals in Lord Howe Island Marine Park began showing signs of bleaching. The 145,000 hectare marine park contains the most southerly coral reef in the world, in one of the most isolated ecosystems on the planet.
Bleaching is Uneven<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMzNDYwMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODA3NDI5N30.KuIV8Rb_AaiIFpfBWiiPVMdhuOmAis5STn-XzO99ciE/img.png?width=980" id="2ced6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="723e0237ffdd9375ad2f85fce5f9b062" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Coral bleaching observed at Lord Howe in March 2019.
Author Provided<p>Lord Howe Island was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. It is the coral reef closest to a pole, and contains many species found nowhere else in the world.</p><p>Two of us (Tess Moriarty and Rosie Steinberg) have surveyed reefs across Lord Howe Island Marine Park to determine the extent of bleaching in the populations of hard coral, soft coral and anemones. This research found severe bleaching on the inshore lagoon reefs, where up to 95 percent of corals are showing signs of extensive bleaching.</p><p>However, bleaching is highly variable across Lord Howe Island. Some areas within the Lord Howe Island lagoon coral reef are not showing signs of bleaching and have remained healthy and vibrant throughout the summer. There are also corals on the outer reef and at deeper reef sites that have remained healthy, with minimal or no bleaching.</p><p>One surveyed reef location in Lord Howe Island Marine Park is severely impacted, with more than 90 percent of corals bleached; at the next most affected reef site roughly 50 percent of corals are bleached, and the remaining sites are less than 30 percent bleached. At least three sites have less than 5 percent bleached corals.</p>
Healthy coral photographed at Lord Howe marine park in March 2019.
Author Provided<p>Over the past week heat stress has continued in this area, and return visits to these sites revealed that the coral condition has worsened. There is evidence that some corals are now dying on the most severely affected reefs.</p><p>Forecasts for the coming week indicate that water temperatures are likely to cool below the bleaching threshold, which will hopefully provide timely relief for corals in this valuable reef ecosystem. In the coming days, weeks and months we will continue to monitor the affected reefs and determine the impact of this event to the reef system, and investigate coral recovery.</p>
What’s Causing the Bleaching?<p>The bleaching was caused by high seawater temperature from a persistent <a href="https://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/data/5km/v3.1/image/daily/max_r07d_baa/gif/2019/coraltemp5km_max_r07d_baa_20190325_ese.gif" target="_blank">summer marine heatwave</a> off southeastern Australia. Temperature in January was a <a href="https://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/data/5km/v3.1/image/composite/monthly/gif/2019/01/coraltemp5km_ssta_mean_201901_ese.gif" target="_blank">full degree Celsius warmer than usual</a>, and from the end of January to mid-February temperatures remained above the local bleaching threshold.</p><p>Sustained heat stressed the Lord Howe Island reefs, and put them at risk. They had a temporary reprieve with cooler temperatures in late February, but by March another increase put the ocean temperature well above safe levels. This is now the <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00338-011-0778-7" target="_blank">third recorded bleaching event</a> to have occurred on this remote reef system.</p>
Satellite monitoring of sea-surface temperature (SST) revealed three periods in excess of the Bleaching Threshold during which heat stress accumulated (measured as Degree Heating Weeks, DHW). Since January 2019, SST (purple) exceeded expected monthly average values (blue +) by as much as 2°C. The grey line and envelope indicate the predicted range of SST in the near future.
NOAA Coral Reef Watch<p>However, this heatwave has not equally affected the whole reef system. In parts of the lagoon areas the water can be cooler, due to factors like ocean currents and fresh groundwater intrusion, protecting some areas from bleaching. Some coral varieties are also more heat-resistant, and a particular reef that has been exposed to high temperatures in the past may better cope with the current conditions. For a complex variety of reasons, the bleaching is unevenly affecting the whole marine park.</p><p>Coral bleaching is the greatest threat to the sustainability of coral reefs worldwide and is now clearly one of the greatest challenges we face in responding to the impact of global climate change. UNESCO World Heritage regions, such as the Lord Howe Island Group, require urgent action to address the cause and impact of a changing climate, coupled with continued management to ensure these systems remain intact for future generations.</p>