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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on March 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Coral reef studies, , ,   

    From Stanford University: “Before reefs become deserts: Keeping coral healthy in Hawaii” 

    Stanford University Name
    Stanford University

    March 1, 2018
    Nicole Kravec

    Stanford researchers in the Hawaiian Islands compared healthy coral, left, with degraded coral dominated by algae overgrowth. (Image credit: Keoki Stender/Marine Life Photography)

    Researchers develop novel approach to understand both human and environmental impacts on coral reef health across the Hawaiian Islands.

    Many of Hawaii’s once-thriving coral reefs are now struggling to recover from recent extreme coral bleaching caused by rising water temperatures. These periodic increased temperatures combined with coastal runoff, fishing pressure and other impacts are all suspected of contributing to slow reef recovery.

    As a way of understanding which factors had the biggest impacts on Hawaii’s corals, a group of researchers from the collaborative Ocean Tipping Points project, co-led by Larry Crowder, the Edward Ricketts Provostial Professor of Marine Ecology and Conservation at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, completed the first-ever comprehensive map of how both humans and natural events influence overall reef health. This new study was published March 1 in PLOS One.

    “When we jumped into the water in west Hawaii, over half of the coral reef was dead,” said Lisa Wedding, research associate at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions and a lead author on the paper. “These are some of Hawaii’s most vibrant coral reefs, so we were heartbroken – and determined to better understand how reef ecosystems could be more resilient in the future.”

    Big step for Hawaii

    Reefs across the Hawaiian Islands have both cultural and economic value. Although people have known that natural and human-caused phenomena affect the health and resilience of coral reef ecosystems, little is known about which factors are more important in each region.

    To find out what factors play the largest role in reef resilience, the group synthesized 10 years of datasets from university and government sources examining factors they knew had an impact on coral reefs, such as sedimentation, development and fishing.

    This analysis revealed variations in what was inhibiting reef recovery across the islands. On the densely populated island of Oahu, dominant stressors were human activities, such as fishing and loss of natural habitat to coastal development. Sedimentation and nutrient runoff were dominant forces on less populated islands.

    “This area of research has been a long-term need for coral reef conservation and management. These findings will allow us to take a big step forward in understanding how corals are impacted by both human activities and by environmental stressors, in a place with incredible value,” said Joey Lecky, co-author on the paper and a geographic information system analyst for NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

    Bigger steps beyond

    The research team’s findings highlight the importance of tailoring strategies based on location to effectively address local impacts. This approach, synthesizing data from a large geographic area and over a long period of time to get a big-picture perspective on reef health and regional impacts, provides a foundation for further research and informs policies to protect coral reefs.

    Data created by this mapping study are available for free at the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, where scientists, managers and members of the public can explore and further analyze what drives variation on coral reefs. Users can download data layers in various formats and explore all layers in an interactive map viewer.

    “We live in a changing world, and changing oceans are a big part of that. Studies like this one provide crucial insights into how we can act locally to improve the resilience of reefs to global changes,” said Ocean Tipping Points lead investigator Carrie Kappel of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. “This is an approach that can be replicated for reefs elsewhere.”

    Co-authors of the publication include scientists from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa; NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); University of California, Santa Barbara; Bangor University; Stockholm University; National Geographic Society; Conservation International; Arizona State University; Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; Curtin University; and California Polytechnic State University.

    This research was supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
    Media Contacts

    Larry Crowder, Stanford Hopkins Marine Station: larry.crowder@stanford.edu

    Lisa Wedding, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions: lwedding@stanford.edu, (805) 607-1519

    Nicole Kravec, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions: nkravec@stanford.edu, (415) 825-0584

    Carrie Kappel, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, UC Santa Barbara: Kappel@nceas.ucsb.edu, (831) 869-1503

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on June 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Coral reef studies, , , Stony Corals More Resistant to Climate Change Than Thought   

    From Rutgers: “Stony Corals More Resistant to Climate Change Than Thought, Rutgers Study Finds” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    June 1, 2017
    Todd B. Bates

    Stylophora pistillata, a well-studied stony coral common in the Indo-Pacific. Photo: Kevin Wyman/Rutgers University

    Stony corals may be more resilient to ocean acidification than once thought, according to a Rutgers University study that shows they rely on proteins to help create their rock-hard skeletons.

    “The bottom line is that corals will make rock even under adverse conditions,” said Paul G. Falkowski, a distinguished professor who leads the Environmental Biophysics and Molecular Ecology Laboratory at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “They will probably make rock even as the ocean becomes slightly acidic from the burning of fossil fuels.”

    The Rutgers team, including lead author Stanislas Von Euw, a post-doctoral research fellow in Falkowski’s lab, details its findings in a pioneering study published online today in the journal Science. Using a materials science approach, the team tapped several high-tech imaging methods to show that corals use acid-rich proteins to build rock-hard skeletons made of calcium carbonate minerals.

    “What we’re showing is that the decades-old general model for how corals make rock is wrong,” Falkowski said. “This very careful study very precisely shows that corals will secrete proteins, and the proteins are what really forms the mineral and the proteins are very acidic, which will surprise a lot of people.”

    Corals are largely colonial organisms that harbor hundreds to hundreds of thousands of polyps (animals). Reefs built by stony, shallow-water coral species are among the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Thousands of species of fish and other sea life rely on reefs for survival, and thousands of human communities count on reefs for food, protection and jobs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    But corals face several environmental threats over the long-run: potentially deadly bleaching from global warming and rapid temperature changes; nutrient pollution; the physical destruction of coral reefs; and ocean acidification linked to carbon dioxide emissions, Falkowski said.

    The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning and land use changes, leading to lower pH and greater acidity, according to NOAA. Ocean acidification is reducing levels of calcium carbonate minerals in many areas, which will likely hamper the ability of some organisms to create and maintain their shells.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:22 pm on January 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Coral reef studies, NASA JPL - Caltech CORAL   

    From JPL: “NASA CORAL Mission to Raise Reef Studies to New Level” 


    January 6, 2016
    Carol Rasmussen
    NASA Earth Science News Team

    Temp 1
    Coral reef in the Mariana Islands. Credit: NOAA/David Burdick

    A new three-year NASA field expedition gets underway this year that will use advanced instruments on airplanes and in the water to survey more of the world’s coral reefs, and in far greater detail, than ever before. The COral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) will measure the condition of these threatened ecosystems and create a unique database of uniform scale and quality.

    Coral reefs, sometimes called the rainforests of the sea, are home to a quarter of all ocean fish species. They protect shorelines from storms and provide food for millions of people, yet very little of the world’s reef area has been studied scientifically. Virtually all measurements have been made by expensive, labor-intensive diving expeditions. Many reefs have never been surveyed, and those that have been studied were measured at only a few dive sites.

    “Right now, the state of the art for collecting coral reef data is scuba diving with a tape measure,” said Eric Hochberg, CORAL principal investigator and scientist at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George’s. “It’s analogous to looking at a few trees and then trying to say what the forest is doing.”

    Hochberg’s team will survey the condition of entire reef systems in Florida, Hawaii, Palau, the Mariana Islands and Australia. CORAL will use an airborne instrument called the Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM), developed and managed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Concurrent in-water measurements will validate the airborne measurements of reef condition. In turn, reef condition will be analyzed in the context of the prevailing environment, including physical, chemical and human factors. The results will reveal how the environment shapes reef ecosystems.

    Reefs worldwide are threatened by human impacts and climate change. The limited observations made to date suggest that 33 to 50 percent of our planet’s coral reefs have been significantly degraded or lost, and the concern among reef scientists is that most functioning reef ecosystems will disappear by mid-century.

    “We know reefs are in trouble,” Hochberg said. “We’ve seen the reefs of Jamaica and Florida deteriorate and we think we know what is happening there. However, reefs respond in complex ways to environmental stresses such as sea level change, rising ocean temperatures and pollution. The available data were not collected at the appropriate spatial scale and density to allow us to develop an overarching, quantitative model that describes why and how reefs change in response to environmental changes. We need accurate data across many whole reef ecosystems to do that.”

    According to Michelle Gierach, the CORAL project scientist at JPL, PRISM was specifically created for remote sensing of coastal and inland waters. PRISM records the spectra of light reflected upward toward the instrument from the ocean below, allowing researchers to pick out the unique spectral signatures of living corals and algae. As corals die, algae increase on a reef, so the ratio of coral to algae is an indicator of the ecosystem’s health.

    “Now, estimates of global reef status are synthesized from local surveys with disparate aims, methods and quality,” Gierach said. “With CORAL, we will provide not only the most extensive picture to date of the condition of a large portion of the world’s coral reefs, but a uniform dataset, as well.”

    JPL is providing engineering support and management for CORAL’s airborne campaigns under project manager Ian McCubbin. CORAL science team members come from institutions across the United States, each bringing different subject expertise.

    After the 2016-2017 field campaign, the CORAL science team will analyze the new data to catalog the relative abundance of coral, algae and sand on each reef. “Then we’ll be able to start making predictions about what might happen to the world’s reefs that are based on numbers, rather than just ideas,” said Hochberg.

    Although CORAL will vastly increase the amount of data available on the health of coral reefs, it will cover just three to four percent of the world’s reefs.

    “Ideally, in a decade or so we’ll have a satellite that can frequently and accurately observe all of the world’s reefs, and we can push the science and, most importantly, our understanding even further,” said Hochberg.

    NASA funded CORAL through its Earth Venture-Suborbital program, which competitively selects airborne and field investigations that target specific scientific questions, complementing the agency’s satellite missions. Earth Venture-Suborbital, as well as spaceborne Earth Venture mission and instrument investigations, are part of NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program managed at the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. NASA’s Earth Venture program supports innovative approaches to address Earth science research with regular and frequent windows of opportunity to accommodate new scientific priorities.

    NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

    To find out more about NASA’s Earth science research, visit:


    Media Contact
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Steve Cole
    NASA Headquarters, Washington

    See the full article here .

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    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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