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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The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. The Australian government is trying to buy its crown jewel some time, but is it willing to support what the reef needs most — a reduction in emissions?
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem. Stretching 2,300 km along Australia's northeast coastline, this complex of shallow water reefs and islands is home to thousands of species of fish, invertebrates, algae, reptiles, birds and algae. This image, taken by the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi NPP satellite on Aug.19, 2017 uses the high resolution SVI 3, 2, and 1 bands, commonly referred to as "natural color" RGB. NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.
Buying insurance is one way to protect something of value, such as a car or a home. And now businesses in Cancun, Mexico, have insured a coral reef.
By Tara Lohan
Part of Joellen Russell's job is to help illuminate the deep darkness — to shine a light on what's happening beneath the surface of the ocean. And it's one of the most important jobs in the world right now.
1. Yes, It’s Definitely Getting Warmer<p>There's no doubt among scientists that the ocean is heating and we're driving it.</p><p>The latest confirmation is the <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00376-020-9283-7.pdf" target="_blank">study by Cheng and colleagues, published this month</a> in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, which bluntly stated, "Ocean heating is irrefutable and a key measure of the Earth's energy imbalance."</p><p>The study found ocean waters in 2019 were the warmest in recorded history. And that follows a pattern: The past decade has also seen the warmest 10 years of ocean temperatures, and the last five years have been the five warmest on record.</p><p>"Every year the ocean waters get warmer, and the reason is because of the heat-trapping gases that humans have emitted into the atmosphere," says <a href="https://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/faculty/john-p-abraham.html" target="_blank">John Abraham</a>, one of the study's coauthors and a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of St. Thomas. "It's concerning for sure."</p>
2. The Southern Ocean Has Been Hit Worst<p>Much of this warming occurs between the surface and a depth of 6,500 feet. It's happening pretty consistently across the globe, but some areas have experienced higher rates of warming. One of those is the Southern Ocean, which has acted as a giant sink, absorbing 43 percent of our oceanic CO2 emissions and 75 percent of the heat, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0516-2" target="_blank">scientists have concluded</a>.</p><p>That's because the ocean basin functions like an air conditioner for the planet, says Russell. Strong winds pull up cold water from deep below, and then the cold surface water takes up some heat from the air. When the winds slow, the water sinks, more cold water rises, and the process repeats.</p><p>"The sinking water isn't warm, per se, just a bit warmer than it was when the wind pulled it up," she says. "In this way the Southern Ocean can sequester a lot of heat well below the surface."</p><p>For that reason what happens in the Southern Ocean is globally important. And it makes new findings all the more concerning.</p><p>Normal upwelling of waters from deep in the Southern Ocean has traditionally brought nutrients to the surface, where they then get moved by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, the world's strongest ocean current, to feed <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/marine-life">marine life</a> in other areas. But <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0502-8" target="_blank">new research</a> from Russell and colleagues found that this process will be disrupted as warm waters cause the Southern Ocean's ice sheets to melt even faster. This will change the historical upwelling and could trap nutrients instead of pushing them out.</p><p>That, she says, will "begin to starve the global ocean of nutrients."</p>
3. A Lot of Changes Are Happening<p>As bad as that sounds…there's a lot more.</p><p>One of the most obvious results of ocean warming is higher sea levels. That's caused in part because water expands as it warms.</p><p>But there's also the effect on sea ice. The warmer the water gets, the more ice melts — as is happening in Antarctica. Not surprisingly <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2680/new-study-finds-sea-level-rise-accelerating/" target="_blank">rates of global sea-level rise are accelerating</a>. This means more property damage, storm surges, and waves lapping at the heels of our coastal communities.</p><p>Warmer waters also mean more supercharged storms. An increase in heat drives up evaporation and adds extra moisture to the atmosphere, causing heavy rains, more flooding and more extreme weather events.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjkzMjM5OH0.bhKjRgMbhxksaqF3cbAaR47hB1qOwEhfu57i-5Zq4vM/img.jpg?width=980" id="cfea2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03961faaf4043365957badd47c4abfd2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The aftermath of Cyclone Idai, one of the deadliest storms in history, in Mozambique, March 2019. Denis Onyodi / IFRC / DRK / Climate Centre / CC BY-NC 2.0
4. Marine Heat Waves Are Getting Worse<p>While temperatures are rising across the world's oceans, some areas are also seeing dangerous short-term spikes known as <a href="http://www.marineheatwaves.org/all-about-mhws.html" target="_blank">marine heatwaves</a>.</p><p>Scientists anticipate that these heatwaves, which can be fatal to a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-tasmania/" target="_blank">long list of sea creatures</a>, will continue to get more severe and more frequent as the ocean warms. By the end of the century, conditions in some areas may be akin to a permanent heatwave.</p><p>That's likely to be bad news for everything from seaweed to birds to mammals, and it could result in fundamental changes for food webs and the animals and coastal economies that depend on those resources.</p><p>"Collectively, and over time, an increase in the exposure of marine ecosystems to extreme temperatures may lead to irreversible loss of species or foundation habitats, such as seagrass, coral reefs and kelp forests," a <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00734/full?utm_source=ad&utm_medium=tw&utm_campaign=ba_sci_fmars" target="_blank">December 2019 study</a> in<em> Frontiers in Marine Science</em> found.</p><p>And these changes likely aren't far off. These marine heatwaves "will emerge as forceful agents of disturbance to marine ecosystems in the near-future," the researchers wrote.</p><p>We're already seeing what that would look like.</p><p>Marine heatwaves off Australia have spurred oyster die-offs and losses to the abalone fishery, and one event in 2016 caught the world's attention when it caused <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-04660-w" target="_blank">severe bleaching of the biodiverse Great Barrier Reef</a>, triggering mass coral deaths.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjYzNjk2Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODU4NTI3OH0.nn6BGq9q8yOZAxYZKGnYtrmWETVdBEoeOZ_thH1pEm0/img.jpg?width=980" id="62e5a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4df8b69188d6484a2932664481c2b6f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
An aerial view of widespread coral bleaching in the northern Great Barrier Reef, 2016. Terry Hughes / ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies / CC BY-ND 2.0
5. What We Don’t Know<p>Scientists have enough information now to tell us that we need to quickly change course. But there's still a lot to learn about how warming temperatures will affect myriad species in the sea, not to mention weather patterns and coastal economies.</p><p>One current line of research is to better understand how ocean warming affects weather.</p><p>"We know that a warmer ocean means more water evaporates into the atmosphere," says Abraham. "Consequently, it makes the weather more severe because humidity drives storms. We would like to quantify this. So how much worse is weather now and how bad will it be?"</p><p>Some of that information will come from existing systems.</p>
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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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It's a quiet May morning on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We're high on a cliff inside the fences of the Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project, with only the sound of the wind rushing past our ears and the crash of waves breaking on the shoreline far beneath. Only the slightest hints of animal cries reach our ears — until ecologist Lindsay Young turns on a loudspeaker. Then the air fills with the breathy squawks and raucous chirps of seabirds.
Echoes and Questions<p>Nikoku and other degraded habitats are the flip side of the story of noise pollution. While human-generated sounds have harmed wildlife and ecosystems around the planet, the absence of natural sounds also causes cascading ecological problems.</p><p>Scientists around the world have started to investigate the soundscapes — or lack of them — for a range of species, and they're realizing just how crucial critter calls are for healthy ecosystems. Planting native vegetation and removing sources of pollution aren't necessarily enough to get an ecosystem functioning again. For that wildlife needs to fulfill key ecological roles such as pollination and seed dispersal — and eating, or being eaten by, other animals.</p><p>Darren Proppe has been investigating the role of sound in habitat restoration for years. He's currently the research director at the Wild Basin Creative Research Center of St. Edward's University in Texas, but he previously studied songbirds in Michigan and the effect that birdcall recordings might have on conservation efforts.</p><p>"One of the challenges that drove this whole thing initially is that there were areas where people had restored habitat and it looked great, but it was left vacant," Proppe says.</p><p>Previous research had already established that broadcasting sounds of bird calls could attract individual songbirds to a specific area. Proppe wanted to test whether that technique could be expanded for a larger number of species. In a key <a href="https://academic.oup.com/beheco/article/26/5/1379/242959" target="_blank">2015 study</a>, his research group used recordings of six different songbirds in northern Michigan to see whether playing those calls together would attract more birds to a given tract of forest. The speakers, camouflaged as rocks and powered by solar-charged batteries, broadcast the calls on daily playback loops between May and July.</p>
The Sounds Heard 'Round the World'<p>Birds aren't the only species that could benefit from this emerging research. The possibility of using sound as a conservation tool is being explored across species and habitats. In Kenya <a href="https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2028.1998.113-89113.x" target="_blank">researchers have used broadcasts</a> of hyena and lion vocalizations to draw the carnivores to certain locations in order to more easily conduct population surveys. A similar technique was <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000632070200294X" target="_blank">used in Zimbabwe</a> to count African wild dogs.</p><p>And more recently, biologists in Australia have turned to a different medium to fill with sound: the ocean.</p><p>"We've recently discovered that as coral reefs degrade, their biological soundscape gets quieter," writes marine scientist Timothy Gordon, with the University of Exeter, by email.</p><p>Because some fish species spend parts of their life in the open ocean, they need a way to eventually navigate back to the reef. That's where sound comes in, and why it's such a problem when cyclones or mass bleaching cause reefs to empty out.</p><p>"The animals that usually make a symphony of crackles, snaps, pops, grunts and whoops are dead, and in their absence the reef turns ghostly quiet," Gordon says. "This is tragic to hear, and also concerning — without these sounds, there's a real danger that fishes can no longer hear their way home."</p><p>Gordon and his colleagues wanted to see if they could develop a solution for this problem. Working on the northern Great Barrier Reef, they used underwater loudspeakers to broadcast the sounds of healthy reefs onto coral-rubble patch reefs. Unlike the environment hosting birds, coral reefs are filled with a jumble of sounds. Gordon says it would be almost impossible to disentangle the sounds to target one individual species, since healthy reefs feature a cacophony of sounds (he compared the noise of moving sea urchins to "sizzling bacon").</p>
Ghost Sounds<p>The biggest challenge with all these cases is the lack of high-quality habitat in the first place. Neither Gordon nor Young were particularly optimistic about using animal soundscapes as a panacea for an enormous, multifaceted problem.</p><p>"No reef restoration can work without simultaneous dramatic action on carbon emissions to reduce global warming and prevent further damage," Gordon says. "But if we can limit our emissions to stop ocean warming, new understanding like this gives us a real chance of helping our heavily damaged reefs to recover."</p><p>For Hawaii's seabirds, Young says, the solution must go beyond the sounds of a restored habitat. Although they're making progress with expanding the number of safe spaces for the birds, and have even <a href="https://www.seabirddatabase.org/" target="_blank">created a website</a> to catalogue seabird restoration and social attraction recordings from around the world, they still have to deal with the predators and artificial lights that decimated bird populations in the first place.</p><p>"The restoration only creates another safe site, it doesn't address why they're going extinct on their colonies," Young says. "We're creating a new safe space for them, but it doesn't mean the threat doesn't exist at all the other colonies. And until we really get that addressed, it's not going to be optimistic."</p>
Australian wildlife cannot catch a break.
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A loudspeaker on a coral reef. Tim Gordon / University of Exeter<p>So a team of researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Bristol in the UK, and Australia's James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science spent October to December of 2017 in the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/great-barrier-reef" target="_self">Great Barrier Reef</a> trying to see if they could replicate these healthy reef sounds in damaged environments.<br></p><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/12/01/scientists-used-loudspeakers-make-dead-coral-reefs-sound-healthy-fish-flocked-them/?fbclid=IwAR0Ny2b3DK_qz34i2AlxXc1PHVzaRaDIBPlbd_21Bd9LUTkYFMLw53v2nbA" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> explained their process:</p><blockquote>At the start of fish recruitment season, when fish spawn and mature, the team built 33 experimental reef patches out of dead coral on open sand about 27 yards from the naturally occurring reef. They then fixed underwater loudspeakers to the center of the patches, angling them upward to ensure the sound was distributed evenly in all directions.<br><br>Over 40 nights, the team played recordings from a healthy reef in some of the patches. In other patches, they used dummy speakers that emitted no sounds, and they left a third group of patches untouched.</blockquote>
Tim Gordon deploys an underwater loudspeaker on a coral reef. Harry Harding / University of Bristol<p>The result? The reef patches that broadcasted the healthy reef sounds attracted double the number of fish as the other patches, and the fish species drawn to them were 50 percent more diverse. That diversity included species from every section of the food web, from plankton eaters to predators, which is important for reef health.</p><p>"Reefs become ghostly quiet when they are degraded, as the shrimps and fish disappear, but by using loudspeakers to restore this lost soundscape, we can attract young fish back again," Simpson said in the press release.</p><p>The scientists called this process "acoustic enrichment" and think it could be one tool for helping reef ecosystems recover more quickly.</p><p>"Of course, attracting fish to a dead reef won't bring it back to life automatically, but recovery is underpinned by fish that clean the reef and create space for corals to regrow," Australian Institute of Marine Science fish biologist and study author Dr. Mark Meekan said in the press release.</p>
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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