Coral-list discussion: #ChangeGlobalBehavior

This comment from Nohora Galvis posted on the NOAA Coral-list is part of a discussion of how to reduce the impacts of climate change. It is the best summary I have read yet:

Fundación ICRI Colombia en Pro de los Arrecifes Coralinos via

Dec 2 (1 day ago)

Dear Leslie,

This is about all, as all of us are decision makers. Of course, the
main responsibility goes to the top decision makers who work in our
representation to rule the world by applying new regulations and
enforce them. It is about the communities and Civil Society who should
be listened without discrimination to allow them to speak up (Civil
Rights) and request as many times as needed to promote better
conservation of coral reefs. It is about scientists who should open to
other scenarios to publish their findings e.g. social media, without
feeling that they are losing rigor by expressing that they also FEEL
passion about coral reef conservation.

It is also about organizers of international meetings who allow online
participation to reduce the environmental / economic cost of
travelling. It is about Environmental International and National
Organizations who should allow participation of scientific based
advocacy. It is about every one of the human beings who decide what to
buy, how to move from one place to other, who recycle, who diminish
consumption, who update their information to become more environmental
friendly, who are open to advice to improve local and global behavior.

At #COP21 We are starting to #ChangeGlobalBehavior !!!

All the best,
Nohora Galvis

Coral-list: 2015 Mesoamerican Reef Report Card available

Melanie McField via

The Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI) recently released its
2015 Report Card for the Mesoamerican Reef, recording an improvement in
reef health for this important reef system encompassing 248 study sites
across the 100 km of coast in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. You
can download the report from and view a 5 min video version right from our
homepage: * *

The simultaneous launch events in the 4 MAR countries garnered over 70
media stories and celebrated important conservation wins, such as the full
protection of parrotfish in Guatemala (jointing Belize and the Bay Islands
of Honduras in their previous full protection of these key herbivores). In
the next couple of weeks we will launch the full database behind this
report, also from our website. Thanks to the 65 partner organizations that
comprise this collaborative effort!

Major findings include:

– The overall 2015 MAR Reef Health Index score was ‘fair’ (2.8), on a
scale of ‘critical’ (1) to ‘very good’ (5), with encouraging improvements
over the last report.

– Corals – the architects of the reef – have improved since 2006,
increasing from 10%-16% cover; although fleshy macroalgae, the main
competitors with corals for open reef space, have also increased.

– Commercial fish have increased in biomass – an important success –
although large groupers are quite rare (only 4% of the 700 groupers counted
were >40cm long) and are mainly found in fully protected zones of marine
protected areas (MPAs).

– Fully protected areas had 10 times more snapper and grouper biomass
than those within general use areas of designated MPAs or reefs with no
protection. Collaborative efforts to rebuild fish populations through
replenishment (=fully protected) areas are working.

Melanie McField, PhD
Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian Institution
1648 NE 47th St, Ft Lauderdale FL 33334
Cell: 754 610 9311 Tel: 954 990 8842

Join the International Society for Reef Studies
Coral-List mailing list

AAAS: Great Barrier Reef keeps World Heritage Site Status

ScienceInsider–Breaking news and analysis from the world of science policy

By Leigh Dayton 1 June 2015 11:00 am 2 Comments

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—A threat by a key U.N. agency to list Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) as “in danger” has been averted—for now. A draft decision announced on 29 May by a working group of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture’s World Heritage Committee allows the GBR to keep its current World Heritage Area status but requires Australia to report on progress to safeguard the iconic reef from further decline by 1 December 2016. If “anticipated progress” is not demonstrated, an “in danger” listing will be reconsidered in 2017. Australia will also have to report in 2020 on whether the nation’s Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is meeting its targets.

Demonstrating progress by the end of next year is “a real challenge given the enormity of the reef and the short time-line,” says Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville. He is critical of the Reef 2050 plan. When it was released in March, he told ScienceInsider it “virtually ignores climate change.”

The World Heritage Committee working group “notes with concern” that the overall outlook for the reef is “poor,” and that climate change, poor water quality, and impacts from coastal development are major threats to its health and have been degrading key habitats, species, and ecosystem processes in the central and southern inshore areas.

The draft decision will be approved—or amended—by the full committee when it meets in Bonn, Germany, later this month. The Australian government lobbied hard to avoid an embarrassing “in danger” listing—spending an estimated AU$76,500 visiting the committee’s 21 delegations in their home countries. That is no guarantee members will accept the draft or the government’s assurances. In recent years, the committee has often amended draft decisions.

Scientists and environmental groups remain skeptical about governmental promises. They argue that the government’s pledge of AU$1.53 billion over 10 years is insufficient to meet its planned targets, and point to state and federal support for development of a complex of coal mines in central Queensland, including the world’s largest thermal coal project. Hughes notes that the “unprecedented expansion” of mines and ports will see the number of coal ships crossing the GBR grow from 1600 in 2012 to more than 4000 by 2020. Greenpeace says the draft decision should not be viewed as a reprieve, calling it in a statement “a big red flag.”

Coral-List: Coral Morphologic presents “The Endangered Elkhorn Corals of Fisher Island & Miami’s Deep Dredge (Part 1 of 3)”

May 26

With so many dredge projects being proposed on reefs around the world, here
is another reminder of just how negative the impact can be.

The massive Army Corps of Engineers’ Deep Dredge of Port Miami has now been
ongoing for 18 months nearly non-stop (with several more to go). Not only
have the Army Corps failed to transplant a large number of
federally-protected staghorn corals (*Acropora cervicornis*) living within
the offshore dredging area, they have also produced copious amounts of silt
that has smothered acres of adjacent reef area outside where they claimed
would be impacted. We have documented multiple corals having been
improperly transplanted by their paid contractors, in some cases not even
bothering to use adhesive to reattach them. In other cases, corals that
were transplanted still wound up smothered to death due to their horizontal
attachment on boulders which collects falling silt on their tissue and
doesn’t allow for easy sloughing off.

After our most recent health survey of several highly unusual elkhorn
corals (*Acropora palmata*) living on a coastal seawall along Fisher
Island’s marina here in Miami, we have decided to bring their plight
public. While staghorn is not particularly uncommon offshore Miami, elkhorn
is so extremely rare that is almost absent. It is quite possible that these
are the most ‘coastal’ of all of Florida’s elkhorn colonies… they are
literally growing along the shoreline in knee-deep water adjacent to a
marina and a wastewater treatment plant. The fact that they have persisted
for so long in man-made urban habitat is a testament to their resilience.
However, it is clear that over the past year and half of dredging, the
health of these colonies has declined precipitously. Coral Morphologic
proposes that these elkhorn corals, which are receiving the full brunt of
siltation stress, should be given special protection to ensure their
survival before the summer heat adds to their stress. Given that there are
multiple independent elkhorn branches as a result of past white pox die-off
(that caused them to become discontinuous sub-colonies), we propose that
they are ideal for in-situ mariculture in a coastal coral nursery here in
Miami where they can be carefully propagated into large enough numbers for
subsequent laboratory research and local reef restoration.

Video of the elkhorn coral and improperly transplanted corals on Fisher
Island can be found here:

Stay tuned for Part 2 follows up with the fate of two different hybrid
fused-staghorn (*Acropora prolifera*) corals living alongside the elkhorn
corals on Fisher Island.

Colin Foord
Coral Morphologic via

CBC News: Algae on coral in UAE ‘gives hope’ against bleaching

Technology & Science

Persian Gulf algae prevents coral bleaching in seawater that can reach 36 Celsius in summer

CBC News Posted: Feb 27, 2015 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015 5:00 AM ET


Algae living on coral in the Persian Gulf appear to protect the host coral from dying off. Seawater in the area gets so warm the same temperatures would kill off reefs elsewhere. (Jorg Wiedenmann, John Burt)

Scientists have discovered a new species of algae in the United Arab Emirates that helps corals survive in the warmest seawater temperatures on the planet.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the New York University Abu Dhabi described the “heat-tolerant species” in a paper published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

‘It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought.’- Jorg Wiedenmann, Coral Reef Laboratory at University of Southampton. Ocean waters in the Persian Gulf can reach temperatures of up to 36 degrees Celsius at the peak of summer — warm enough to kill off corals found anywhere else in the world.

How Gulf corals manage to thrive in such habitats likely has something to do with the nutrient-rich algae living in their tissue, the researchers believe.

It seems the algae living off Gulf corals in a symbiotic relationship give their coral hosts a heat-resistant edge not found in reefs elsewhere.

Climate change threat

“When analyzed by alternative molecular biological approaches, we found pronounced differences that set this heat-tolerant species clearly aside,” the researchers said in a statement.

In reference to its ability to survive unusually high temperatures, the researchers named the algae Symbiodinium thermophilum.

Higher water temperatures often cause corals to lose their colour and die, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. (Ove Hoegh-Guldberg/Centre for Marine Studies/The University of Queensland)

Algae are known to deliver nutrition to the coral they inhabit. However, algae are also sensitive to environmental changes, with even slight increases in seawater temperatures putting them at risk.

Loss of algae on corals in the symbiotic relationship often results in “coral bleaching,” in which the white skeletons of corals are left exposed once their algae tissue thins or dies.

“In Gulf corals, both the coral host and the associated algal partners need to withstand the high seawater temperatures,” Jörg Wiedenmann, head of the Coral Reef Laboratory at the University of Southampton Ocean, said in a statement.

John Burt, with NYU Abu Dhabi, said the team confirmed the new type of algae is prevalent year-round across several dominant species found near the coast of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE.

Wiedenmann said more research must be done to better understand how the Gulf’s coral reefs can withstand extreme temperatures, in order to get a better grasp of how reefs elsewhere are dying as a result of climate change.

“It gives hope to find that corals have more ways to adjust to stressful environmental conditions than we had previously thought,” Wiedenmann said. “However, it is not only heat that troubles coral reefs. Pollution and nutrient enrichment, overfishing and coastal development also represent severe threats to their survival.”

Science Daily: New Listing to Protect 21 Species of Sharks and Rays

ScienceDaily: Your source for the latest research news
Featured Research from universities, journals, and other organizations
New listing to protect 21 species of sharks and rays
November 10, 2014
Wildlife Conservation Society
Conservationists are rejoicing at the listing of 21 species of sharks and rays under the Appendices of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), made official today in the final plenary session of the Conference of Parties (CoP). With these listings, member countries agreed to grant strict protection to the reef manta, the nine devil rays, and the five sawfishes, and committed to work internationally to conserve all three species of thresher sharks, two types of hammerheads, and the silky shark.

“We are elated by the overwhelming commitment expressed by CMS Parties for safeguarding some of the world’s most imperiled shark and ray species, including the highly endangered sawfishes,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “Today’s unprecedented actions more than triple the number of shark and ray species slated for enhanced conservation initiatives.”

The proposal to list the thresher sharks was brought by the EU. Silky shark listing was proposed by Egypt. Ecuador and Costa Rica jointly proposed the two hammerhead species. Kenya put forward the sawfish proposal while both the reef manta and devil rays were proposed by Fiji. Fifty-nine of the 120 CMS Parties participated in this CoP.

“Manta and devil rays are exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation, usually having just one pup every few years,” explained Ian Campbell from WWF, who served on the delegation of Fiji. “The Appendix I listing obligates CMS Parties to ban fishing for reef manta and all devil ray species, and reflects a responsible, precautionary approach in light of their inherent susceptibility to depletion.”

Listing on CMS Appendix I commits countries to strictly protect species while Appendix II listing encourages international cooperation towards conservation of shared species. The rays (including sawfishes) were listed under both Appendices while the six shark species were added to Appendix II.

“From hammerheads of the Galapagos to threshers in the Philippines, sharks are incredibly popular attractions for divers,” noted Ania Budziak of Project AWARE. “With increasing recognition of the economic benefits of associated tourism, divers’ voices are playing a key role in winning protections for these iconic species.”

While consensus to advance the sawfish, devil ray, hammerhead, and thresher shark proposals was reached in Committee, Peru and Chile at the time expressed opposition to listing silky sharks on CMS Appendix II. In the final plenary session, however, the two countries did not voice resistance, thereby clearing the way for adoption.

“We could not be more pleased that, in the end, all of the proposals to list sharks and rays under CMS were adopted, and yet we stress that the benefits of such listings depend on concrete follow-up action by the Parties,” said Amie Brautigam of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We urge countries to channel the overwhelming concern for sharks and rays demonstrated at this historic meeting into leadership towards national protections and regional limits on fishing.”

The CMS Parties also agreed a Resolution encouraging improved data collection and fisheries management for sharks and rays.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:


Wildlife Conservation Society. “New listing to protect 21 species of sharks and rays.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2014. .

Special thanks to Robert F. Bolland, Ph.D

Coral list: Paul Hoetjes–Curacao Office of Nature: Final Report of Caribbean Coral Reef Monitoring Workshop, Curacao August 2014

Hi everyone,
Below please find a link to the final report of the Caribbean workshop on Coral Reef Monitoring held in Curaçao last August.

Summarizing very briefly: a steering committee for coral reef monitoring in the Caribbean was agreed and tentatively identified, coordinated by SPAW through its Regional Activity Center (RAC) in Guadeloupe. A set of core data necessary for meaningful monitoring was agreed and recommended methods to collect those data. A set of training materials and, when possible, meetings to exchange knowledge and issues, are planned to support this program.

Paul C. Hoetjes
Policy Coordinator Nature
Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ)
National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands (RCN)
Visiting address: Kaya International z/n, Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands
Mailing address: P.O.Box 357, Kralendijk, Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands
T (+599) 715 83 08
M (+599) 795 90 86
F (+599) 717 83 30

Dear all,

I am glad to tell you that the final report and the outcomes (ref. annexes) of the Curacao workshop have been finalized and are now available on the SPAW-RAC website. (This page layout will be improved tomorrow!)

Please note that the technical outcomes are still proposals at this stage, and are therefore subject to improvement along the coming months ( in particular the Proposed core set of data & methods , the Network Structure , the Terms of Reference and the Socio-economic guidelines).

As planned during the workshop, a presentation was prepared and presented by Jeremy and Ruben this week at ICRI meeting in Japan.
Results will also be presented in two weeks, during the GCFI meeting in Barbados (by Peter, Ruben and Jeremy)

We encourage you to communicate and circulate this information among your contacts, and to forward us the feedback you will receive.

Thank you again for all your input on the report and hard work on the annexes!

Best regards,

Project coordinator – CAR-SPAW
Regional Activity Centre for Protected Areas and Wildlife

Parc national de la Guadeloupe
97120 Saint-Claude – Guadeloupe
Tél : +590 (0)5 90 41 55 85 – Fax : +590 (0)5 90 41 55 56

Open Journal of Ecology: Community-Based Coral Reef Rehabilitation in a Changing Climate: Lessons Learned from Hurricanes, Extreme Rainfall, and Changing Land Use Impacts
OJE> Vol.4 No.14, October 2014

Edwin A. Hernández-Delgado1,2,3*, Alex E. Mercado-Molina2,3, Pedro J. Alejandro-Camis3, Frances Candelas-Sánchez3, Jaime S. Fonseca-Miranda2,3, Carmen M. González-Ramos1,2,3, Roger Guzmán-Rodríguez3, Pascal Mège2, Alfredo A. Montañez-Acuña1,2,3, Iván Olivo Maldonado3, Abimarie Otaño-Cruz1,3,4, Samuel E. Suleimán-Ramos3

1Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation, Coral Reef Research Group, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
2Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
3Sociedad Ambiente Marino, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
4Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Coral reefs have largely declined across multiple spatial scales due to a combination of local-scale anthropogenic impacts, and due to regional-global climate change. This has resulted in a significant loss of entire coral functional groups, including western Atlantic Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) biotopes, and in a net decline of coral reef ecosystem resilience, ecological functions, services and benefits. Low-tech coral farming has become one of the most important tools to help restore depleted coral reefs across the Wider Caribbean Region. We tested a community-based, low-tech coral farming approach in Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, aimed at adapting to climate change-related impacts through a two-year project to propagate A. cervicornis under two contrasting fishing management conditions, in coastal areas experimenting significant land use changes. Extreme rainfall events and recurrent tropical storms and hurricanes had major site-and method-specific impacts on project outcome, particularly in areas adjacent to deforested lands and subjected to recurrent impacts from land-based source pollution (LBSP) and runoff. Overall, coral survival rate in “A frame” units improved from 73% during 2011-2012 to 81% during 2012-2013. Coral survival rate improved to 97% in horizontal line nurseries (HLN) incorporated during 2012-2013. Percent tissue cover ranged from 86% to 91% in “A frames”, but reached 98% in HLN. Mean coral skeletal extension was 27 cm/y in “A frames” and 40 cm/y in HLN. These growth rates were up to 545% to 857% faster than previous reports from coral farms from other parts of the Caribbean, and up to 438% faster than wild colonies. Branch production and branchiness index (no. harvestable branches > 6 cm) increased by several orders of magnitude in comparison to the original colonies at the beginning of the project. Coral mortality was associated to hurricane physical impacts and sediment-laden runoff impacts associated to extreme rainfall and deforestation of adjacent lands. This raises a challenging question regarding the impact of chronic high sea surface temperature (SST), in combination with recurrent high nutrient pulses, in fostering increased coral growth at the expense of coral physiological conditions which may compromise corals resistance to disturbance. Achieving successful local management of reefs and adjacent lands is vital to maintain the sustained net production in coral farms and of reef structure, and the provision of the important ecosystem services that they provide. These measures are vital for buying time for reefs while global action on climate change is implemented. Adaptive community-based strategies are critical to strengthen institutional management efforts. But government agencies need to transparently build local trust, empower local stakeholders, and foster co-management to be fully successful. Failing to achieve that could make community-based coral reef rehabilitation more challenging, and could potentially drive rapidly declining, transient coral reefs into the slippery slope to slime.

Acropora cervicornis, Climate Change, Coral Farming, Extreme Weather Events

Cite this paper
Hernández-Delgado, E. , Mercado-Molina, A. , Alejandro-Camis, P. , Candelas-Sánchez, F. , Fonseca-Miranda, J. , González-Ramos, C. , Guzmán-Rodríguez, R. , Mège, P. , Montañez-Acuña, A. , Maldonado, I. , Otaño-Cruz, A. and Suleimán-Ramos, S. (2014) Community-Based Coral Reef Rehabilitation in a Changing Climate: Lessons Learned from Hurricanes, Extreme Rainfall, and Changing Land Use Impacts. Open Journal of Ecology, 4, 918-944. doi: 10.4236/oje.2014.414077.

Coral-list–Center for Biologic Diversity: 20 Newly Listed Species via ESA

I’m a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and one of the
authors of the petition to list the 83 corals. I wanted to respond to some
of the issues that have been raised about the 20 corals that were recently
listed, including the Center’s role, what the listing means, and steps

The Center petitioned to list 83 corals in 2009 to provide added
conservation tools to help these corals survive and recover in the face of
the growing threats from ocean warming, ocean acidification, disease, and
the myriad of other stressors they face. The ESA will give these corals (1)
protection of essential habitat in US waters, (2) a comprehensive recovery
plan with actions to recover these species, such as reducing ocean warming
and acidification impacts, mitigating local stressors, and implementing
coral restoration and ecosystem conservation activities; (3) reduction of
harms from federal government activities including energy projects,
discharge of pollution from point sources, non-point source pollution,
dredging, pile-driving, setting of water quality standards, vessel traffic,
aquaculture facilities, military activities, and fisheries management
practices; and (4) increased public attention and research momentum at a
time when more conservation action, research, and awareness about the coral
crisis is urgently needed.

A number of people on this list have already suggested helpful ideas for
research priorities and recovery actions for these newly listed corals. We
look forward to working with coral scientists, NMFS, NGOs, and others
interested in coral conservation to discuss ideas for research and
conservation priorities to make ESA protection as meaningful as possible for
these corals.

Here are some responses to questions that have been raised on the listserve
about the Center’s role in the coral listing process and what the ESA
listings mean:

What is the Center for Biological Diversity?

For those of you who don’t know us, the Center is a non-profit conservation
organization dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places
through science, policy, education and environmental law. Our organization
is made up of scientists, organizers, campaigners, policy analysts,
conservation advocates, communications staff, support staff, and
environmental lawyers who work to make sure our keystone environmental laws
are implemented and enforced. Everyone here is very dedicated to making
positive conservation change, and is very knowledgeable about the species
and ecosystems they work to protect.

Our Climate and Oceans programs worked together on this petition. Our
Climate program focuses on protecting species threatened with extinction
from climate change and limiting the carbon pollution that threatens them.
Our Oceans program works to protect marine species in US waters from a suite
a threats, and has long worked to reduce the threat of ocean acidification.

The Center has worked on coral conservation efforts in US waters for more
than a decade. We petitioned to list the elkhorn and staghorn corals in
2004, and went to court to make sure these corals got critical habitat
protection and a recovery plan when NMFS was overdue on issuing these

How did the Center select the 83 corals?

We selected the 83 corals based on (1) their designation as vulnerable,
endangered, or critically endangered by the IUCN based on the analysis by
Kent Carpenter and co-authors, summarized in their 2008 Science paper, (2)
their occurrence in US waters where ESA protections can provide the most
benefit, and (3) studies indicating that they are declining and/or
particularly vulnerable to threats. We wrote and submitted a 198-page
scientific petition in 2009 that cited more than 200 scientific studies.

We recognize that may be disagreement about the species that we petitioned
for and the species that NMFS ultimately listed. People may have wanted more
species, fewer species, or different species listed. We petitioned for the
83 corals based on the scientific evidence available in 2009. Coral
scientists and other citizens always have the option to petition NMFS to
designate additional corals for protection

How does the petition process work?

The ESA allows any citizen to submit a scientific petition to our wildlife
protection agencies, FWS or NMFS, requesting that the agency evaluate the
scientific evidence for protecting that species under the ESA as
“endangered” (in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant
portion of its range) or “threatened” (likely to become endangered in the
foreseeable future). NMFS and FWS can and should initiate the listing
process on their own, but this is uncommon. After receiving a petition, the
agency must determine whether the information in the petition and in the
agency’s possession is sufficient to show that the species may be threatened
or endangered. If so, the agency initiates a scientific status review of
that species to determine whether it merits listing, and then takes an
additional year to finalize a proposed listing.

In the case of the corals, NMFS determined that 82 of the 83 petitioned
species merited a scientific status review. Based on an extended status
review and public comment period, NMFS proposed 66 corals for listing as
threatened or endangered, and additionally proposed uplisting for elkhorn
and staghorn corals from threatened to endangered. After an additional
public comment period and review, NMFS finalized a threatened listing for 20
coral species.

What does the ESA listing mean for the 20 corals?

The ESA provides mandatory conservation tools to increase protections for
listed corals. These include:

(1) Protection of critical habitat in US waters.

(2) A science-based recovery plan with specific management and research
actions to help each listed species survive and recover.

(3) Protection from federal government activities that could harm the corals
and their habitat. US government agencies must consult with federal
biologists to ensure that their actions do not harm listed corals. Through
this consultation process, federal agencies whose activities could harm
corals and their habitat, for example through water pollution, dredging,
commercial fishing, and coastal construction, must analyze their impacts on
corals and take steps to reduce or eliminate them, thereby minimizing
stressors on coral reefs.

(4) Raising greater public awareness about threats to corals to mobilize
support for conservation action. The fact that 22 corals in US waters have
been identified as at risk of extinction primarily due to ocean warming,
ocean acidification, and disease sends a strong message on the need for
meaningful action to reduce carbon pollution at the national and
international level.

Studies have shown the ESA to be effective at preventing extinction and
recovering listed species. The ESA has prevented the extinction of 99% of
species that have been listed to date. One study estimated that 227 listed
plants and animals would have disappeared by 2006 if not for the ESA’s
protections. A recent analysis concluded that the ESA has been successful in
recovering listed species: 90 percent of sampled species are recovering at
the rate specified by their recovery plans

What has the ESA done to help the elkhorn and staghorn coral that were
listed in 2006?

The elkhorn and staghorn corals, which were listed as threatened in 2006,
have received a number of important ESA protections:

(1) The designation of almost 3,000 square miles of protected critical
habitat in US waters in 2008.

(2) The issuance of a draft recovery plan in 2014, which is now open for
public comment through October 20:

(3) US federal agencies have been required to modify a wide range of
projects to reduce harms to these corals, including mitigation to harbor
construction projects, the laying of undersea cable, fisheries management
plans, and park management plans.

(4) ESA protection has allowed citizens to challenge government actions that
are harming corals. For example, the Center and allies challenged NMFS’s
authorization of targeted fishing for parrotfish and other algae-eating reef
fish that threatens the health of elkhorn and staghorn corals. In 2013, the
court determined that NMFS must do a better job monitoring the effects of
commercial fishing on elkhorn and staghorn coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands
and Puerto Rico.

How does ESA protection affect research activities?

ESA listing typically directs more research attention and funding to listed
species. The number of published studies on a species often increases
significantly following a listing. In addition, the scientific status review
during the ESA listing process and the recovery plan developed after listing
identify key research gaps and research priorities that can mobilize
research attention and funding.

Researchers do not need a permit from NMFS for research or enhancement
activities for the 20 newly listed corals:

What are next steps forward for listed corals?

Several important next steps forward include:

(1) identifying research gaps and research priorities to better characterize
the natural history, population status and trends, threats, and conservation
priorities for these corals;

(2) identifying and designating critical habitat areas essential to help
these corals survive and recover, including occupied and unoccupied areas
and climate refugia;

(3) identifying and implementing the suite of recovery actions needed to
help each species survive and recover. For example, the 2014 draft recovery
plan for the elkhorn and staghorn corals includes (a) actions to address
ocean warming and acidification impacts on these species, (b) local threat
reductions and mitigation strategies, (c) in and ex situ conservation and
restoration such as population enhancement through restoration, restocking,
and active management, and (d) ecosystem-level actions to improve habitat
quality and restore keystone reef species and functional processes.

(4) raising public awareness about the coral crisis and what we can do to
help as scientists, policy makers, conservation practitioners, and concerned


Shaye Wolf, Ph.D.

Climate Science Director

Center for Biological Diversity

Coral Morphologic: Bad Year for Coral Bleaching & Sediment on Miami coral reefs

Coral Morphologic

12:09 PM (3 hours ago)

to coral-list
A combination of hot weather and sunny days in summer 2014 has resulted in
very a bad year for coral bleaching in South Florida. Recently, we surveyed
the natural reef (‘first reef tract’) just offshore Fisher Island here in
Miami. Unfortunately, the water has been kept exceptionally silty from the
Army Corps’ ongoing dredging of nearby Government Cut. The water is 10-15
feet deep here, and nearly all of the coral heads on the reef were
bleached. However, the most alarming thing we observed, was the prevalence
of black band disease infecting many of the brain corals. As evidenced from
the video, the dredge silt has settled on the corals, and seems a likely a
culprit in causing this disease outbreak. Prior to this summer, we have
never observed BBD as prevalently on Miami’s corals. Currently, the dredge
ships are operating just outside the mouth of Government Cut jetties,
resulting in plumes of silt that smother corals on the natural reefs in
every direction.

See the video of the bleached and diseased corals here:

Fortunately, the water temperatures have steadily decreased since the start
of September, so we are hopeful that the bleached corals throughout South
Florida will begin to recover soon. However, up here in Miami with the Deep
Dredge ongoing, our corals may be too stressed out, diseased, or smothered
to survive. We will be monitoring the situation closely, and will continue
to update as necessary.

Colin Foord
Co-Founder Coral Morphologic

E&E: Marine protected areas alone unlikely to save degraded reefs — study

Joshua Learn, E&E reporter

Published: Friday, August 22, 2014

Coral larvae and fish looking for new homes are able to sniff out and
avoid areas degraded by overfishing, pollution or other problems,
according to research published yesterday in the journal Science.

Danielle Dixson, a biology professor at the Georgia Institute of
Technology in Atlanta and the lead author, said the study suggests that
designating protected marine areas may not always lead to healthier
reefs nearby.

Further intervention may be needed, she said, to help degraded areas

Researchers started by testing 15 fish species and three coral species
in the lab for their ability to smell healthy reef locations ripe for
colonizing based on seawater they injected into the water.

“We were really wondering what chemical cues makes them decide where to
go,” Dixson said in a telephone interview, adding that the species
showed “a very strong preference for water taken from the healthy reef

The scientists then took tests out to waters in Fiji that have very
healthy and well-protected reef areas next to spots that have suffered
hugely from overfishing or other human-related activities.

“Coral are pretty much a living rock, they can’t move once they’ve
settled,” Dixson said.

Larvae, she said, will often scout settlement areas out before choosing
to lay down their roots and begin forming coral. But in Fiji they
tended to avoid areas plagued with too much algae.

In Fiji, she said, “degraded reefs are pretty much algal parking lots.”

The discovery is troubling, she said, because marine protected acres
(MPAs) are supposed to act as recovery points for wider areas, as fish
and other species don’t stick within their borders.

“The point of a marine protected area is not only to protect what’s
inside its area,” she said.

But in Fiji it’s not happening in some areas because larvae and the
fish that follow them once the coral has developed probably don’t ever
recognize that some algae-covered areas are habitat anymore.

“When two areas are too different from one another, the MPA might not
be working in the way that we think it should be working,” she said.
“That feedback loop is just not going to occur.”

Joana Figueiredo, a marine larval ecologist at the Oceanographic Center
at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the
study’s findings seem reasonable.

“Just by the scent of the water, the larva decided the water wasn’t
good,” she said, adding that the study is in agreement with things that
have been published before.

Both Figueiredo and Dixson said that as a result, conservationists need
to think about wider strategies than just demarcating protected zones.

“What she’s showing is that you cannot just protect a little small area
and not worry about the condition of all the rest. The overall quality
of the area needs to be high,” Figueiredo said. “It’s not just by
protecting one area that you will be able to save a reef.”

Dixson said ways to do this could include clearing the algae from areas
that would otherwise be appropriate for coral settlement, or even
learning more about the kinds of scents that different coral favor in
settlement, as some species will put up with a smellier home than

It’s an important area of study, Dixson said, because once reefs go
past a certain point, we don’t know what we can do to help them.

She’s currently working on related studies testing the chemical
preferences of Caribbean coral species off the coast of Belize.

ICRI: GCRMN report Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970–2012 report out

From: ICRI Secretariat []
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2014 2:35 AM
Subject: Launch of the GCRMN Caribbean Report

Dear colleagues,

It has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here! The all-awaited GCRMN report Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012 led by Jeremy Jackson is getting officially launched today. As you know, the findings of the report clearly show that we can still save Caribbean reefs if we take action to protect parrotfish and similar grazers, as reflected in a Recommendation adopted at our last meeting in Belize (available here ). We managers and decision-makers can make this happen!

The (former) ICRI Secretariat has sponsored the making of a video to illustrate the main findings of the report and promote the Call to Action 2013 (entitled ‘From Despair to Repair’, by Sandy Cannon-Brown) – check it out on Vimeo here . It features Jeremy and his wife Nancy Knowlton telling a sweet but bitter story about reefs in the Caribbean which should encourage viewers to access the report, find out more about the work of ICRI and take action!

The press release, as well as the full report and its Executive summary are available at . Keep an ear out for any news on this report in your country – and please share any with us so we know it’s being picked up!

Many of you contributed to make this happen – so thanks to all those involved in getting data, editing and promoting the report, adopting the parrot fish recommendation, and now taking action in your own country: we can turn the trend around by working together in partnership – that’s what ICRI is all about after all. Or, as Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican reggae star likes to say, “You can get it if you really want, but you must try, try and try. You’ll succeed at last”.

With hope,

The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Secretariat (former and present)

Coral list: Ferrario, F., Beck, M.W., Storlazzi, C.D., Micheli, F., Shepard, C.C., and Airoldi, L., 2014. ”The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation.” *Nature Communications*, 5:3794, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4794.

We are happy to announce the publication of a paper relevant to Coral_List
readers in *Nature Communications* this week by a coalition of ecologists,
geographers, and oceanographers from academia, government, and an
international conservation organization. This research demonstrates how
maintaining or restoring coral reefs ecosystems can not only reduce coastal
hazards, but how such efforts are more cost-effective than hard
anthropogenic engineering structures. This research links coastal hazards
and ecosystem health while providing insight into the cost-benefit analyses
that often drive many management decisions.

The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and

The world’s coastal zones are experiencing rapid development and an
increase in storms and flooding. These hazards put coastal communities at
heightened risk, which may increase with habitat loss. Here we analyse
globally the role and cost effectiveness of coral reefs in risk reduction.
Meta-analyses reveal that coral reefs provide substantial protection
against natural hazards by reducing wave energy by an average of 97%. Reef
crests alone dissipate most of this energy (86%). There are 100 million or
more people who may receive risk reduction benefits from reefs or bear
hazard mitigation and adaptation costs if reefs are degraded. We show that
coral reefs can provide comparable wave attenuation benefits to artificial
defenses such as breakwaters, and reef defences can be enhanced cost
effectively. Reefs face growing threats yet there is opportunity to guide
adaptation and hazard mitigation investments towards reef restoration to
strengthen this first line of coastal defense.

The article should soon be available online for free via OpenAcess at:


Until then, please feel free to contact Mike Beck ( if you
would like a copy of the article.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Curt Storlazzi, Ph.D.
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 460-7521 phone
(831) 427-4748 fax

Staff web page:
Coral-List mailing list

Coral-list: Blanchon P, Granados-Corea M, Abbey E, Braga JC, Braithwaite C, Kennedy DM, Spencer T, Webster JM, Woodroffe CD. (2014) Postglacial Fringing-Reef to Barrier-Reef conversion on Tahiti links Darwin’s reef types. Scientific Reports 4: 4997.

We are pleased to announce the following open-access publication:

Abstract: In 1842 Charles Darwin claimed that vertical growth on a
subsiding foundation caused fringing reefs to transform into barrier reefs
then atolls. Yet historically no transition between reef types has been
discovered and they are widely considered to develop independently from
antecedent foundations during glacio-eustatic sea-level rise. Here we
reconstruct reef development from cores recovered by IODP Expedition 310 to
Tahiti, and show that a fringing reef retreated upslope during postglacial
sea-level rise and transformed into a barrier reef when it encountered a
Pleistocene reef-flat platform. The reef became stranded on the platform
edge, creating a lagoon that isolated it from coastal sediment and
facilitated a switch to a faster-growing coral assemblage dominated by
acroporids. The switch increased the reef’s accretion rate, allowing it to
keep pace with rising sea level, and transform into a barrier reef. This
retreat mechanism not only links Darwin’s reef types, but explains the
re-occupation of reefs during Pleistocene glacio-eustacy.

We welcome any questions or feedback (blanchons at

You can view and download the paper at:

Or: (includes Supp. Info. in pdf file)


Paul Blanchon
Marine Geoscience Lab., Reef Systems Unit,
Institute of Marine Sciences & Limnology
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
Tel: +52 (998) 87-10009 Ext 166
Coral-List mailing list

USGS: Coral Reefs are Critical for Risk Reduction & Adaptation

Coral Reefs are Critical for Risk Reduction & Adaptation
usgs logo
Coral Reefs are Critical for Risk Reduction & Adaptation
Posted: 13 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Summary: ARLINGTON, Va – Stronger storms, rising seas, and flooding are placing hundreds of millions people at risk around the world, and big part of the solution to decrease those risks is just off shore. A new study finds that coral reefs reduce the wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by 97 percent.

New study shows that coral reefs provide risk reduction benefits to hundreds of millions of coastal inhabitants around the world

Contact Information: Sandra L. Rodriguez TNC
Leslie Gordon, USGS Phone: 650-329-4006

ARLINGTON, Va – Stronger storms, rising seas, and flooding are placing hundreds of millions people at risk around the world, and big part of the solution to decrease those risks is just off shore. A new study finds that coral reefs reduce the wave energy that would otherwise impact coastlines by 97 percent.

“Coral reefs serve as an effective first line of defense to incoming waves, storms and rising seas,” said Dr. Michael Beck, lead marine scientist of The Nature Conservancy and a co-author of the study, “200 million people across more than 80 nations are at risk if coral reefs are not protected and restored.”

Published today in the journal “Nature Communications,” this study by an international team of researchers from the University of Bologna, The Nature Conservancy, U. S. Geological Survey, Stanford University and University of California – Santa Cruz, provides the first global synthesis of the contributions of coral reefs to risk reduction and adaptation across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

“This study illustrates that the restoration and conservation of coral reefs is an important and cost effective solution to reduce risks from coastal hazards and climate change,” said Dr. Filippo Ferrario, lead author from the University of Bologna.
Key results from the study:

– Coral reefs provide substantial protection against natural hazards by reducing wave energy by an average of 97 percent (studies across all tropical oceans).
– The reef crest, or shallowest part of the reef where the waves break first, dissipates 86 percent of wave energy on its own.
– The median cost for building artificial breakwaters is USD $19,791 per meter, compared to $1,290 per meter for coral reef restoration projects.

“Coral reefs are wonderful natural features that, when healthy, can provide comparable wave reduction benefits to many artificial coastal defenses and adapt to sea-level rise” said Dr. Curt Storlazzi a co-author from USGS. “This research shows that coral reef restoration can be a cost-effective way to decrease the hazards coastal communities face due to the combination of storms and sea-level rise.”

“While there are many concerns about the future of corals reefs in the face of climate change,” Dr. Fiorenza Micheli of Stanford University said, “there are still many reasons for optimism about the future of coral reefs particularly if we manage other local stressors such as pollution and development.”

The study found that there are 197 million people worldwide who can receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs alone or may have to bear higher costs of disasters if the reefs are degraded. These are people in villages, towns, and cities who live in low, risk prone coastal areas (below 10m elevation) and within 50 km of coral reefs.

Conservation efforts are most often directed to more remote reefs, however the study suggests there should also be a focus on reefs closer to the people who will directly benefit from reef restoration and management. In terms of number of people who receive risk reduction benefits from coral reefs, the top 15 countries include:

1. Indonesia, 41 million
2. India, 36 million
3. Philippines, 23 million
4. China, 16 million
5. Vietnam, 9 million
6. Brazil, 8 million
7. United States, 7 million
8. Malaysia, 5 million 9. Sri Lanka, 4 million
10. Taiwan, 3 million
11. Singapore, 3 million
12. Cuba, 3 million
13. Hong Kong, 2 million
14. Tanzania, 2 million
15. Saudi Arabia, 2 million

Additionally, major investments are being made in artificial defense structures such as seawalls for coastal hazard mitigation and climate adaptation. The study shows that the restoration of coral reefs for coastal defense may be as low as 1/10 the cost of building artificial breakwaters. Reef defenses can be enhanced in a cost-effective manner through restoration, a key factor in protecting small island nations and regions with limited fiscal resources.

Drs. Beck and Micheli were supported in this work by Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation, an effort that has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries for projects to address conservation challenges facing our oceans.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation awards recipients US $150,000 for a three-year project to address conservation challenges facing our oceans. The program has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries. The program is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

CARMABI releases Coral Spawning Predictions for 2014

Based on last year’s surveys a prediction is now available of expected times and dates that some of the more abundant Caribbean coral species will release the next generation of corals during the annual coral spawning. The dates are only applicable to the Southern Caribbean. Be aware that the coral spawning is becoming more difficult to predict each year and that this schedule of estimated spawning times provides no guarantees. To see the 2014-spawning prediction for the Southern Caribbean,

Go to:″ title=”Coral spawning predictions 2014″

Special thanks to Coral-list

International Society for Reef Studies publishes “Reef Encounter” again


Special thanks to NOAA Coral-list:

Dear Coral Listers,

Regarding REEF ENCOUNTER, may I take the opportunity to advise those of you who are not yet members of ISRS (International Society for Reef Studies) that the Society’s Council has now agreed to make the re-launched electronic version of the society’s news journal REEF ENCOUNTER available, with a slight delay, to non-members.

As a result a pdf file of the latest edition (Volume 29 No. 1 published in March) can now be downloaded from the society’s membership server free of charge by entering / clicking on the following web address:

This edition contains an interesting variety of news, general articles, opinion pieces, scientific letters and reviews.
Notes for potential contributors are included on the back pages.

Free on-line access to the society’s academic journal CORAL REEFS remains however available only to members.

[Coral-List] 2014 Eco-Audit on Mesoamerican Reef

Melanie McField via

Apr 2, 2014
Of interest to the Coral Reef Community – the latest report from the
Healthy Reefs Initiative

No Reef Left Behind: Is Management of the Mesoamerican Reef Making the

The coral reefs of Mesoamerica – Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico –
are known for their striking beauty and colorful diversity, but are we
doing enough to protect these natural underwater treasures? That is the
focus of a just published study by the Healthy Reefs Initiative. Their 2014
Eco-Audit of the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) Countries is a systematic
multinational evaluation involving four countries, over 50 organizations
and more than 350 analytical documents – and is thought to be the only
multi-national environmental audit of its kind globally.

The region-wide results for 2014 measured a ‘Fair’ level of positive
implementation (2.9 out of a possible score of 5.0); with Belize
maintaining the highest score (3.2) followed closely by Mexico (3.1),
Honduras (2.7), and Guatemala (2.4). The theme with the highest ranking
(Good) was *Research, Education and Awareness* (3.9), followed by *Marine
Protected Areas* (3.4), which also showed good improvement since the last
audit. *Sustainability in the Private Sector *got a “Poor” score (2.4),
although it showed improvement since the last audit. *Sanitation and
Sewage Treatment* had the lowest score (2.3) with no improvements.
Additional NGO and government effort in improving sanitation will not only
benefit the regions reefs but also the health of the millions of people
living along the coast.

The full press release is attached. The Eco-Audit brochure and all
documentation can be downloaded from



Melanie McField, PhD
Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian
1648 NE 47th St, Ft Lauderdale FL 33334
Cell: 754 610 9311 Tel: 954 990 8842

Join the International Society for Reef Studies

Chemical defenses and resource trade-offs structure sponge communities on Caribbean coral reefs by T. Loh and J. Pawlik

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS,
vol. 111 no. 11 Tse-Lynn Loh, 4151–4156, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321626111

by Tse-Lynn Loh1 and Joseph R. Pawlik2

Author Affiliations
Edited* by Jerrold Meinwald, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and approved January 22, 2014 (received for review November 19, 2013)


Chemical defenses are known to protect some species from consumers, but it is often difficult to detect this advantage at the community or ecosystem levels because of the complexity of abiotic and biotic factors that influence species abundances. We surveyed the community of sponges and sponge predators (angelfishes and parrotfishes) on coral reefs across the Caribbean ranging from heavily overfished sites to protected marine reserves. High predator abundance correlated with high abundance of chemically defended sponge species, but reefs with few predators were dominated by undefended sponge species, which grow or reproduce faster than defended species. Overfishing may enhance competition between palatable sponge species and reef-building stony corals, further impeding the recovery of Caribbean coral reefs.

Ecological studies have rarely been performed at the community level across a large biogeographic region. Sponges are now the primary habitat-forming organisms on Caribbean coral reefs. Recent species-level investigations have demonstrated that predatory fishes (angelfishes and some parrotfishes) differentially graze sponges that lack chemical defenses, while co-occurring, palatable species heal, grow, reproduce, or recruit at faster rates than defended species. Our prediction, based on resource allocation theory, was that predator removal would result in a greater proportion of palatable species in the sponge community on overfished reefs. We tested this prediction by performing surveys of sponge and fish community composition on reefs having different levels of fishing intensity across the Caribbean. A total of 109 sponge species was recorded from 69 sites, with the 10 most common species comprising 51.0% of sponge cover (3.6–7.7% per species). Nonmetric multidimensional scaling indicated that the species composition of sponge communities depended more on the abundance of sponge-eating fishes than geographic location. Across all sites, multiple-regression analyses revealed that spongivore abundance explained 32.8% of the variation in the proportion of palatable sponges, but when data were limited to geographically adjacent locations with strongly contrasting levels of fishing pressure (Cayman Islands and Jamaica; Curaçao, Bonaire, and Martinique), the adjusted R2 values were much higher (76.5% and 94.6%, respectively). Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs, particularly by fish trapping, removes sponge predators and is likely to result in greater competition for space between faster-growing palatable sponges and endangered reef-building corals.

chemical ecology
indirect effects
community structure
marine protected areas
trophic dynamics


1Present address: Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL 60605.
2To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Author contributions: J.R.P. designed research; T.-L.L. and J.R.P. performed research; T.-L.L. and J.R.P. analyzed data; and T.-L.L. and J.R.P. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.

This article contains supporting information online at

Cecilia D-Angelo, Jorg Wiedenmann: Impacts of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs: new perspectives and implications for coastal management and reef survival

Open Access view full pdf: Impacts of Nutrient Enrichment

• Nutrient enrichment negatively affects coral physiology and ecosystem functioning.
• Integrative model of reef survival in dependence of direct and indirect nutrient effects.
• Coastal run-off-induced phytoplankton blooms impose nutrient stress on coral reefs.
• Regional nutrient management is crucial for reef survival under the pressure of climate change.

Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment is often associated with coral reef decline. Consequently, there is a large consent that increased nutrient influxes in reef waters have negative longterm consequences for corals. However, the mechanisms by which dissolved inorganic nutrients can disturb corals and their symbiotic algae are subject to controversial debate. Herein, we discuss recent studies that demonstrate how nutrient enrichment affects the heat and light stress tolerance of corals and their bleaching susceptibility. We integrate direct and indirect effects of nutrient enrichment on corals in a model that explains why healthy coral reefs can exist over a rather broad range of natural nutrient environments at the lower end of the concentration scale and that anthropogenic nutrient enrichment can disturb the finely balanced processes via multiple pathways. We conceptualise that corals can suffer from secondary negative nutrient effects due to the alteration of their natural nutrient environment by increased phytoplankton loads. In this context, we suggest that phytoplankton represents a likely vector that can translate nutrients effects, induced for instance by coastal run-off, into nutrient stress on coral reefs in considerable distance to the site of primary nutrient enrichment. The presented synthesis of the literature suggests that the effects of nutrient enrichment and eutrophication beyond certain thresholds are negative for the physiological performance of the coral individual and for ecosystem functioning. Hence, the immediate implementation of knowledge-based nutrient management strategies is crucial for coral reef survival.

Special thanks to Coral-list @

World Resources Institute & partners launch Coastal Capital Guidebook: Ecosystem Valuation for Decision Making in the Caribbean

Dear Colleagues,

On February 19, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and partners will release our newest publication in our Coastal Capital series, a guidebook called Coastal Capital: Ecosystem Valuation for Decision Making in the Caribbean. This guidebook is intended for economic valuation practitioners-both economists and non-economists-who would like to conduct coastal ecosystem valuation to achieve influence and inform real-world decisions. The guidebook leads practitioners through the scoping, analysis, and outreach phases of a valuation effort.

To celebrate the publication’s launch, grab your lunch and join us for a brownbag presentation and discussion with the WRI authors, Richard Waite, Lauretta Burke, and Erin Gray.

WHEN: Wednesday, February 19 from 12:30-13:30 (EST)

WHERE: At WRI’s U.S. office in Washington, DC and on the web:

* RSVP in person
* Register for webinar

We will provide:

* An overview of WRI’s Coastal Capital series
* Lessons learned from previous “influential” coastal valuation studies in the Caribbean
* An overview of the guidebook, including step-by-step advice on conducting coastal ecosystem valuation with a specific emphasis on informing decisions
* Thoughts on next steps and opportunities for collaboration
* Cookies!

Anyone interested in ecosystem valuation and coastal policy issues should attend!

Best regards,
Rich, Lauretta, and Erin

Richard Waite
Associate – Food, Forests & Water Program
World Resources Institute
10 G Street, NE, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20002 USA

Tel: +1 202-729-7734 | Skype: richard.a.waite

WRI focuses on the intersection of the environment and socio-economic development. We go beyond research to put ideas into action, working globally with governments, business, and civil society to build transformative solutions that protect the earth and improve people’s lives.

Special thanks to NOAA Coral-list

Ecotoxicology: Toxicological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, benzophenone-2, on planulae and in vitro cells of the coral, *Stylophora pistillata* by C. A. Downs • Esti Kramarsky-Winter • John E. Fauth • Roee Segal •Omri Bronstein • Rina Jeger • Yona Lichtenfeld • Cheryl M. Woodley • Paul Pennington • Ariel Kushmaro • Yossi Loya

The article is in the journal Ecotoxicology. A link to the article can be
found at

Accepted: 7 December 2013

Abstract Benzophenone-2 (BP-2) is an additive to personal-care products and commercial solutions that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. BP-2 is an ‘‘emerging contaminant of concern’’ that is often released as a pollutant through municipal and boat/ship wastewater discharges and landfill leachates, as well as through residential septic
fields and unmanaged cesspits. AlthoughBP-2may be a contaminant on coral reefs, its environmental toxicity to reefs is unknown. This poses a potential management issue, since BP-2 is a known endocrine disruptor as well as a weak genotoxicant. We examined the effects of BP-2 on the larval form (planula) of the coral, Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity to in vitro coral cells. BP-2 is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light versus in darkness. Whether in darkness or light,
BP-2 induced coral planulae to transformfromamotile planktonic state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of BP-2. BP-2 is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a strong positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing BP-2 concentrations. BP-2 exposure in the
light induced extensive necrosis in both the epidermis and gastrodermis. In contrast, BP-2 exposure in darkness induced autophagy and autophagic cell death. The LC50 of BP-2 in the light for an 8 and 24 h exposure was 120 and 165 parts per billion (ppb), respectively. The LC50s for BP-2 in darkness for the same time points were 144 and 548 ppb. Deformity EC20 levels (24
h) were 246 parts per trillion in the light and 9.6 ppb in darkness.

Oregon State University: Large study shows pollution impact on coral reefs — and offers solution

Contact: Rebecca Vega-Thurber


IMAGE: Diver Andrew Schantz of Florida International University studies the effect of pollution on corals in the Florida Keys.
Click here for more information.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – One of the largest and longest experiments ever done to test the impact of nutrient loading on coral reefs today confirmed what scientists have long suspected – that this type of pollution from sewage, agricultural practices or other sources can lead to coral disease and bleaching.

A three-year, controlled exposure of corals to elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus at a study site in the Florida Keys, done from 2009-12, showed that the prevalence of disease doubled and the amount of coral bleaching, an early sign of stress, more than tripled.

However, the study also found that once the injection of pollutants was stopped, the corals were able to recover in a surprisingly short time.

“We were shocked to see the rapid increase in disease and bleaching from a level of pollution that’s fairly common in areas affected by sewage discharge, or fertilizers from agricultural or urban use,” said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an assistant professor in the College of Science at Oregon State University.

“But what was even more surprising is that corals were able to make a strong recovery within 10 months after the nutrient enrichment was stopped,” Vega-Thurber said. “The problems disappeared. This provides real evidence that not only can nutrient overload cause coral problems, but programs to reduce or eliminate this pollution should help restore coral health. This is actually very good news.”

The findings were published today in Global Change Biology, and offer a glimmer of hope for addressing at least some of the problems that have crippled coral reefs around the world. In the Caribbean Sea, more than 80 percent of the corals have disappeared in recent decades. These reefs, which host thousands of species of fish and other marine life, are a major component of biodiversity in the tropics.


IMAGE: This coral, which was part of a scientific study, is bleached as a result of exposure to elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.
Click here for more information.

Researchers have observed for years the decline in coral reef health where sewage outflows or use of fertilizers, in either urban or agricultural areas, have caused an increase in the loading of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. But until now almost no large, long-term experiments have actually been done to pin down the impact of nutrient overloads and separate them from other possible causes of coral reef decline.

This research examined the effect of nutrient pollution on more than 1,200 corals in study plots near Key Largo, Fla., for signs of coral disease and bleaching, and removed other factors such as water depth, salinity or temperature that have complicated some previous surveys. Following regular injections of nutrients at the study sites, levels of coral disease and bleaching surged.

One disease that was particularly common was “dark spot syndrome,” found on about 50 percent of diseased individual corals. But researchers also noted that within one year after nutrient injections were stopped at the study site, the level of dark spot syndrome had receded to the same level as control study plots in which no nutrients had been injected.

The exact mechanism by which nutrient overload can affect corals is still unproven, researchers say, although there are theories. The nutrients may add pathogens, may provide the nutrients needed for existing pathogens to grow, may be directly toxic to corals and make them more vulnerable to pathogens – or some combination of these factors.

“A combination of increased stress and a higher level of pathogens is probably the mechanism that affects coral health,” Vega-Thurber said. “What’s exciting about this research is the clear experimental evidence that stopping the pollution can lead to coral recovery. A lot of people have been hoping for some news like this.

“Some of the corals left in the world are actually among the species that are most hardy,” she said. “The others are already dead. We’re desperately trying to save what’s left, and cleaning up the water may be one mechanism that has the most promise.”

VIDEO: This is an interview with Rebecca Vega-Thurber about new findings in a coral reef study off the Florida Keys.
Click here for more information.

Nutrient overloads can increase disease prevalence or severity on many organisms, including plants, amphibians and fish. They’ve also long been suspected in coral reef problems, along with other factors such as temperature stress, reduced fish abundance, increasing human population, and other concerns.

However, unlike factors such as global warming or human population growth, nutrient loading is something that might be more easily addressed on at least a local basis, Vega-Thurber said. Improved sewage treatment or best-management practices to minimize fertilizer runoff from agricultural or urban use might offer practical approaches to mitigate some coral reef declines, she said.


Collaborators on this research included Florida International University and the University of Florida. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and Florida International University.

Editor’s Note: Digital images are available to illustrate this research:

Diver at study site:

Bleached coral:

Nutrient dispenser:

A package of video interviews and associated B-roll, including underwater video, is also available for downloading in high resolution format:

Underwater b-roll:

Package interview with Dr. Rebecca Vega Thurber:

Dr. Rebecca Vega Thurber Interview:

Laboratory b-roll:

Rebecca Vega Thurber Interview (audio only):

[Coral-List] NMFS’ 90-day finding on petition to list 23 corals

Today the National Marine Fisheries Service published their 90-day finding
on a petition to list 23 coral species under the Endangered Species Act. The
23 corals are part of a wider set of 81 marine species the agency was
petitioned to list in July 2013. The finding determined that the available
information presents substantial scientific or commercial data or
information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted for
three species (*Cantharellus noumeae, Siderastrea glynni*, and *Tubastraea
floreana*). We will initiate a status review of these species and we seek
information from interested parties and the public on the status, threats,
and conservation of these species. The public comment period opened today
and ends 24 December 2013. A 12-month finding on whether or not to propose
ESA listing for one or more of these three species is the next step in the

We also determined that the petition did not present substantial
information indicating the petitioned actions may be warranted for the
remaining 20 species. These 20 species are: *Acropora roseni, Acropora
suharsonoi, Alveopora excelsa, Alveopora minuta, Ctenella chagius,
Hydnophora bonsai, Isopora togianensis, Lithophyllon ranjithi, Lobophyllia
serratus, Millepora boschmai, Millepora striata, Montipora setosa,
Parasimplastrea sheppardi, Pectinia maxima, Pocillopora fungiformis,
Porites desilveri, Porites eridani, Porites ornata, Rhizopsammia
wellingtoni, *and *Stylophora madagascarensis*. This ends the review
process for these 20 species.

The 90-day finding, petition, link to the online public comment site, and
other information are all available at:

best regards


Dwayne Meadows, Ph.D.
Species of Concern National Program Coordinator
Endangered Species Division
Office of Protected Resources (F/PR3)
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 427-8467
FAX: (301) 713-4060

Coral-List: Nova Southeastern University Report on Coral Spawning 2013

Hello all,
After the full moon in July, August, and September, researchers in 7 regions of the Caribbean (Mexico, Curacao, Belize, St. Thomas, Florida, Flower Gardens, Columbia) monitoring 9 coral species (A. cervicornis, A. palmata, A.. prolifera, Diploria/Pseudodiploria strigosa , Dendrogyra cylindrus, Montastraea/Orbicella franksi, M. annularis, M. faveolata, Montastraea cavernosa) for spawning activity. Overall it was a great year for Caribbean coral spawning.
For detailed information on location, spawning times, and environmental conditions, log into google docs and follow this link:

Please email me ( if you have any corrections or additional spawning observations. You can also join us on the “coral spawning research” facebook page for real time accounts of coral spawning events.

Nicole D. Fogarty, PhD
Assistant Professor
Nova Southeastern University
Oceanographic Center
8000 N. Ocean Drive
Dania Beach, FL 33004-3078
(954) 262-3630

Marine Pollution Bulletin 44 (2002) 1206–1218: Characterizing stress gene expression in reef-building corals exposed to the mosquitoside dibrom q

Morgan and Snell 2002 Dibrom

Michael B. Morgan *, Terry W. Snell
Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Biology, Atlanta, GA 30332-0230, USA

We characterize two genes expressed in Acropora cervicornis upon exposure to 0.5 lg/l of dibrom, a pesticide used for mosquito control in the Florida Keys. Fragments of these genes were isolated, sequenced, and developed into chemiluminescent probes for Northern slot blots. Expression of target transcripts was detected in corals exposed to a variety of stressors including organophosphates, organochlorines, heavy metals, naphthalene, and temperature. Within the context of stressors examined, the D25 probe demonstrates toxicant and concentration specificity for organophosphates, whereas the D50 probe had broader specificity, detecting transcripts in corals exposed to dibrom, naphthalene, and temperature stress. After characterizing specificity in the lab, these probes were used on field samples taken from the Florida Keys. Both probes detected their targets in samples taken from the upper Florida Keys in August 2000. Preliminary search of sequence databases suggest similarity exists between D25 and a thioesterase.

MARINE ECOLOGY PROGRESS SERIES: Insecticides and a fungicide affect multiple coral life stages


Mar Ecol Prog Ser
Vol. 330: 127–137, 2007 Published January 25

Kathryn L. Markey1, 2, Andrew H. Baird3, Craig Humphrey2, Andrew P. Negri2,*
1 School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, and 3ARC Centre of Excellence for Reef Studies, James Cook University,
Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
2 Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB
3, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia

ABSTRACT: Coral reefs are under threat from land-based agricultural pollutants on a global scale.
The vulnerability of early life stages of corals is of particular concern. Here, we compared the sensitivity
of gametes, larvae and adult branches of the broadcast-spawning coral Acropora millepora
(Ehrenberg) to a number of common pollutants, including 4 classes of insecticides—2 organophosphates
(chlorpyrifos, profenofos), an organochlorine (endosulfan), a carbamate (carbaryl) and a
pyrethroid (permethrin)—and a fungicide (2-methoxyethylmercuric chloride, MEMC). Fertilisation
of gametes was not affected by any of the insecticides at concentrations up to 30 μg l–1. In contrast,
settlement and metamorphosis were reduced by between 50 and 100% following 18 h exposure to
very low concentrations (0.3 to 1.0 μg l–1) of each insecticide class. The insecticides had few visible
effects on adult branches following 96 h exposure to a concentration of 10 μg l–1, with the exception
of profenofos, which caused polyp retraction, bleaching (i.e. algal symbiont densities were reduced)
and a slight reduction in photosynthetic efficiency of the algal symbionts. The fungicide MEMC
affected all life-history stages: both fertilisation and metamorphosis were inhibited at 1.0 μg l–1, and
polyps became withdrawn and photosynthetic efficiency was slightly reduced at 1.0 μg l–1. At 10 μg
l–1 MEMC, branches bleached and some host tissue died. This high susceptibility of coral larvae to
pesticides at concentrations around their detection limit highlights the critical need to assess toxicity
against all life-history stages of keystone organisms: to focus on mature individuals may underestimate
species sensitivity.

Common Dreams: ‘Inhospitable Oceans’ Acidifying at Rate Unseen in 250 Million Years (or Ever)

Published on Monday, August 26, 2013
New study shows oceans in peril as acidification is happening at rate perhaps never seen in planet’s history
– Jon Queally, staff writer

(Photo: ‘Rough Ocean’/Flickr/Jacqueline Fasser)In both a new study published Monday and in a newspaper interview over the weekend, German marine biologist Hans Poertner warns the world that the crisis of ocean acidification—an intricately woven aspect of global warming and climate change—is now happening at a rate unparalleled in the life of the oceans for at least 250 million years and perhaps the fastest rate ever in the planet’s entire existence.

“The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth’s history,” said Poertner in an interview with environmental journalist Fiona Harvey.

Ocean acidification—often called climate change’s “evil twin” by scientists and experts—happens as the pH level of seawater dwindles as it absorbs increasing amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and though such fluctuations are a normally occurring phenomenon, when the balance tips too far, the acidification can imperil numerous types of marine life and is especially threatening to coral, shell fish, and other essential members of the ocean’s ecosystems.

Poertner—whose study, Inhospitable Oceans, was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change—says that if humanity’s industrial carbon emissions continue with a “business as usual” attitude, the problem of the oceans will be catastrophic.

To make comparisons, the study looked back at the ancient fossil record of the ocean to learn about what we can expect if the process continues unchecked. “The [effects observed] among invertebrates resembles those seen during the Permian Triassic extinctions 250m years ago, when carbon dioxide was also involved,” Poertner said. “The carbon dioxide range at which we see this sensitivity [to acidification] kicking in are the ones expected for the later part of this century and beyond.”

As Harvey explains:

Oceans are one of the biggest areas of focus for current climate change research. The gradual warming of the deep oceans, as warmer water from the surface circulates gradually to lower depths, is thought to be a significant factor in the earth’s climate. New science suggests that the absorption of heat by the oceans is probably one of the reasons that the observed warming in the last 15 years has been at a slightly slower pace than previously, and this is likely to form an important part of next month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The IPCC report, the first since 2007, will provide a comprehensive picture of our knowledge of climate change. It is expected to show that scientists are at least 95% certain that global warming is happening and caused by human activity, but that some uncertainties remain over the exact degree of the planet’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas increases.

And as Time points out in its review of the study:

Corals are likely to have the toughest time. The invertebrate species secretes calcium carbonate to make the rocky coastal reefs that form the basis of the most productive—and beautiful—ecosystems in the oceans. More acidic oceans will interfere with the ability of corals to form those reefs. Some coral have already shown the ability to adapt to lower pH levels, but combined with direct ocean warming—which can lead to coral bleaching, killing off whole reefs—many scientists believe that corals could become virtually extinct by the end of the century if we don’t reduce carbon emissions.

The Nature Climate Change study found that mollusks like oysters and squids will also struggle to adapt to acidification, though crustaceans like lobsters and crabs—which build lighter exoskeletons—seem likely to fare better. With fish it’s harder to know, though those species that live among coral reefs could be in trouble should the coral disappear. But ultimately, as the authors point out, “all considered groups are impacted negatively, albeit differently, even by moderate ocean acidification.” No one gets out untouched.


ISME Journal via Coral-list: Bacterial profiling of White Plague Disease in a comparative coral species framework

The ISME Journal advance online publication 8 August 2013; doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.127

Open–find complete paper with tables at:

Cornelia Roder1, Chatchanit Arif1, Till Bayer1, Manuel Aranda1, Camille Daniels1, Ahmed Shibl1, Suchana Chavanich2 and Christian R Voolstra1

1Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
2Department of Marine Science, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Reef Biology Research Group, Bangkok, Thailand

Correspondence: CR Voolstra, Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Building 2, Room 2226, Thuwal 23955, Saudi Arabia. E-mail:

Received 23 January 2013; Revised 19 June 2013; Accepted 1 July 2013
Advance online publication 8 August 2013


Coral reefs are threatened throughout the world. A major factor contributing to their decline is outbreaks and propagation of coral diseases. Due to the complexity of coral-associated microbe communities, little is understood in terms of disease agents, hosts and vectors. It is known that compromised health in corals is correlated with shifts in bacterial assemblages colonizing coral mucus and tissue. However, general disease patterns remain, to a large extent, ambiguous as comparative studies over species, regions, or diseases are scarce. Here, we compare bacterial assemblages of samples from healthy (HH) colonies and such displaying signs of White Plague Disease (WPD) of two different coral species (Pavona duerdeni and Porites lutea) from the same reef in Koh Tao, Thailand, using 16S rRNA gene microarrays. In line with other studies, we found an increase of bacterial diversity in diseased (DD) corals, and a higher abundance of taxa from the families that include known coral pathogens (Alteromonadaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, Vibrionaceae). In our comparative framework analysis, we found differences in microbial assemblages between coral species and coral health states. Notably, patterns of bacterial community structures from HH and DD corals were maintained over species boundaries. Moreover, microbes that differentiated the two coral species did not overlap with microbes that were indicative of HH and DD corals. This suggests that while corals harbor distinct species-specific microbial assemblages, disease-specific bacterial abundance patterns exist that are maintained over coral species boundaries.

16S rRNA gene microarray; Gulf of Thailand; Pavona duerdeni; Porites lutea; coral disease; White Plague Disease (WPD)

Special thanks to Coral-list

Why I am Still Opposed to Widening and Deepening Key West Harbor to Accommodate Larger Cruise Ships by DeeVon Quirolo

Points to consider in the discussion of whether to vote for a feasibility study to widen and deepen Key West harbor:

The science has been indisputable for a long long time on the negative impacts of siltation and dredging on or near coral reefs. Corals are living permanent structures on the ocean bottom comprised of colonies of living polyps that need clear, clean nutrient free waters to thrive. Dredging creates fine sediment and silt that covers corals, preventing photosynthesis and resulting in massive mortality, especially for Elkhorn and Staghorn corals–which cannot slough it off as can other corals. Such sedimentation also reduces the ability of all marinelife, including tarpon and other fish that utilize this area for habitat, to survive.

Episodic storm activity may stir up sediment but the wave action of those storms can also remove loose particulate matter from areas of the ocean bottom. While storm activities have historically affected visibility in the harbor and at the reefs, they do not compare in scale to the massive, chronic, intense effects of outright removal of habitat and the smothering of living formations by tons of dredge sediments that would occur immediately in the harbor and at nearby downstream coral reefs if additional widening and deepening of Key West Harbor were to occur.

It is incredulous to me that anyone associated with protecting coral reefs would dispute this elementary fact of coral ecology. In addition, the health of sea grasses and myriad other marinelife that depend upon this habitat would be severely impacted, including endangered sea turtles and dolphins.

The Key West Harbor Reconnaisance Report published November 2010 noted that the harbor is included in the “critical essential habitat” for both Elkhorn and Staghorn corals under the Endangered Species Listing for them. There has not been one case of allowing removal of critical essential habitat from the Jacksonville Corps of Engineers office in the last 15 years.

It states: “Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973; the threatened coral Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral) and Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral) could be located adjacent to the channel in the areas proposed for expansion as this area is designated as critical habitat for these species. While it is possible to relocate the actual colonies of coral, the critical habitat would be permanently removed. It is highly likely that the removal of several acres of occupied designated critical habitat (habitat where the species has been shown to be able to flourish under baseline conditions) could be considered an adverse modification of critical habitat under Section 7 of the ESA. This would be Jacksonville District’s first adverse modification of critical habitat determination in the last 15 years. It is also unknown what reasonable and prudent alternatives and measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would include in a biological opinion to avoid the project adversely modifying designated critical habitat, as required under Section 7 of the Act.* It is expected that resource agencies would oppose any channel modifications outside the existing footprint.”

So this whole feasibility study could be a huge waste of money because there are good reasons why a permit would never be issued for the project thereafter. Surely we can find a more sustainable use of $5 million dollars—how about some stormwater treatment for the island of Key West to improve water quality?

The feasibility study is an effort to calculate the possibility of further widening and dredging in a harbor that was deepened just five years ago. Underneath Key West lies a fresh water aquifer. There are upwellings of fresh water in the harbor today. A massive deepening and widening may have severe unintended consequences on the aquifer, that at a minimum could result in salt water intrusion of that fresh water lens.

The last harbor dredging project just a few years ago included a mitigation plan by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to remove corals from the harbor with the purpose of restoring the damage. Despite their best efforts, there have been only a few of those corals planted in an offshore boat grounding site. For the most part, there has been no successful effort to restore the extent of coral colonies that existed in this area prior to the last dredging. It is therefore highly unlikely that another dredging project will succeed in restoring the habitat removed via mitigation this time either. It is just a false hope that the loss of biodiversity will be anything but an ecological disaster for this otherwise already stressed part of Key West’s coral reef ecosystem.

Often these dredge projects result in in-filling thereafter due to storm activity. Key West may be saddled with a harbor that produces chronic sedimentation without regular repeated environmentally destructive maintenance dredging. This will in turn affect the downstream coral reefs with additional chronic smothering contaminated sediment.

The greater question really is: How much more can the surrounding coral reef ecosystem of the Florida Keys handle in terms of human impacts? Isn’t it enough to have a thriving hotel, tourism and real estate industry? Can’t we draw a line in the sand and say “enough is enough”? Already the hoards of cruise ship visitors denigrates the downtown section to the exclusive benefit of a few businesses while high-end resorts and guesthouses hold their breath that this low-end massive impact to our quality of life will not repel their key markets. What about those who still hope that Key West can be a magic island home–don’t they deserve consideration?

Craig and I would encourage every voter in Key West to vote NO on the feasibility study to dredge Key West harbor….. again.

DeeVon Quirolo

WLOX: Scientists studying impact of oil spill on coral reefs

Posted: Jul 05, 2013 6:41 PM EST Updated: Jul 05, 2013 7:02 PM EST
By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – Scientists studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill invited the media aboard their research vessels Friday morning during a stop at the Port of Gulfport. Much of their research has focused on the oil spill’s impact on coral reefs in the Gulf.

The scientists gave a tour of their working laboratories aboard the Nautilus and the Endeavor. One researcher says the area around the Deepwater Horizon site is probably the best surveyed section of sea floor in the world. Still, three years after the oil spill, they are just beginning to discover the extent of its impact. The research vessel Nautilus uses a pair of remote operated vehicles or ROVs to explore coral reefs in deep water all around the oil spill site in the Gulf.

“We’ve been going back and taking pictures of the same corals, leaving physical markers on the floor, visiting the exact same coral colonies again and again, every three to four months since the spill occurred,” said Dr. Erik Cordes, the chief scientist aboard. Early images showed definite damage to the corals near the Deepwater Horizon site. The follow-up study on the health of the coral continues with varying results. “The story is really mixed. Some of them seem to be doing better than they were three years ago. And a lot of them seem to be doing much worse,” said Dr. Cordes.

While the Nautilus team focuses on coral, scientists aboard its sister research ship Endeavor are busy looking at what happens with oil and gas as it moves through the water column from sea floor to sea surface. “We’ve been doing experiments to see what happens to oil when it falls to the sea floor, when it rises up and what happens when the carbon from the oil enters organisms and move through the food web,” said Dr. Joseph Montoya, a professor of geology at Georgia Tech University. Large devices on deck allow the team to collect both sea floor sediment and water samples from around the oil spill site.

“We are interested in both what’s happening to the oil that was released during the Deepwater Horizon incident and in understanding what happens to oil in general terms so that we’ll be prepared if this were ever to happen again,” said Dr. Montoya.

“There are so many unanswered questions still to pursue. We’ve I think come up with some answers on this cruise, but I think we’ve come up with a lot more questions,” Dr. Cordes admitted.

The research consortium includes scientists from 17 different universities. The project headquarters is at the University of Mississippi.

Marine Pollution Bulletin: Environmental impacts of dredging and other sediment disturbances on corals: a review by PL Erftemeijer, B Riegl, BW oeksema and PA Todd

Mar Pollut Bull. 2012 Sep;64(9):1737-65. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.05.008. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

This is another study available only for a price, but the abstract is instructive to the issue of how dredging harms corals. DV

Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), P.O. Box H615, Perth, WA 6001, Australia.

A review of published literature on the sensitivity of corals to turbidity and sedimentation is presented, with an emphasis on the effects of dredging. The risks and severity of impact from dredging (and other sediment disturbances) on corals are primarily related to the intensity, duration and frequency of exposure to increased turbidity and sedimentation. The sensitivity of a coral reef to dredging impacts and its ability to recover depend on the antecedent ecological conditions of the reef, its resilience and the ambient conditions normally experienced. Effects of sediment stress have so far been investigated in 89 coral species (~10% of all known reef-building corals). Results of these investigations have provided a generic understanding of tolerance levels, response mechanisms, adaptations and threshold levels of corals to the effects of natural and anthropogenic sediment disturbances. Coral polyps undergo stress from high suspended-sediment concentrations and the subsequent effects on light attenuation which affect their algal symbionts. Minimum light requirements of corals range from <1% to as much as 60% of surface irradiance. Reported tolerance limits of coral reef systems for chronic suspended-sediment concentrations range from <10 mg L(-1) in pristine offshore reef areas to >100 mg L(-1) in marginal nearshore reefs. Some individual coral species can tolerate short-term exposure (days) to suspended-sediment concentrations as high as 1000 mg L(-1) while others show mortality after exposure (weeks) to concentrations as low as 30 mg L(-1). The duration that corals can survive high turbidities ranges from several days (sensitive species) to at least 5-6 weeks (tolerant species). Increased sedimentation can cause smothering and burial of coral polyps, shading, tissue necrosis and population explosions of bacteria in coral mucus. Fine sediments tend to have greater effects on corals than coarse sediments. Turbidity and sedimentation also reduce the recruitment, survival and settlement of coral larvae. Maximum sedimentation rates that can be tolerated by different corals range from <10 mg cm(-2) d(-1) to >400 mg cm(-2) d(-1). The durations that corals can survive high sedimentation rates range from <24 h for sensitive species to a few weeks (>4 weeks of high sedimentation or >14 days complete burial) for very tolerant species. Hypotheses to explain substantial differences in sensitivity between different coral species include the growth form of coral colonies and the size of the coral polyp or calyx. The validity of these hypotheses was tested on the basis of 77 published studies on the effects of turbidity and sedimentation on 89 coral species. The results of this analysis reveal a significant relationship of coral sensitivity to turbidity and sedimentation with growth form, but not with calyx size. Some of the variation in sensitivities reported in the literature may have been caused by differences in the type and particle size of sediments applied in experiments. The ability of many corals (in varying degrees) to actively reject sediment through polyp inflation, mucus production, ciliary and tentacular action (at considerable energetic cost), as well as intraspecific morphological variation and the mobility of free-living mushroom corals, further contribute to the observed differences. Given the wide range of sensitivity levels among coral species and in baseline water quality conditions among reefs, meaningful criteria to limit the extent and turbidity of dredging plumes and their effects on corals will always require site-specific evaluations, taking into account the species assemblage present at the site and the natural variability of local background turbidity and sedimentation.

Marine Pollution Bulletin Report: Lethal and sublethal effects of dredging on reef corals by Rolf P.M. Bak

Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 9, Issue 1, January 1978, Pages 14–16
Caribbean Marine Biological Institute (Carmabi), Piscaderabaai, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles Netherlands,

The full article is only available by paying $39.95, but the extract ends with one very strong statement for those who think that the sediment from storms compares to the avoidable impacts of dredging on corals. DV

Purchase $39.95


Effects of dredging on a coral reef are described. Under water light values at a depth of 12–13 m were reduced from about 30% to less than 1% surface illumination. Colonies of coral species which are inefficient sediment rejectors (Porites astreoides) lost their zooxanthellae and died. Calcification rates in Madracis mirabilis and Agaricia agaricites were observed to decrease by 33%. The period of suppressed calcification exceeds that of environmental disturbance.

Science Network: Offshore dredging severely impacts coral reefs
Thursday, 13 September 2012 06:00

Murky coral
The study found that sediment accumulation on coral tissue was a “strong and consistent cause of tissue mortality” and resulted in the death of whole coral fragments over prolonged periods.


Image: Dan Derret RESEARCH by the Australian Institute of Marine Science has discovered that proposed dredging works along the WA coast could severely impact certain coral species found in local waters.

Scientists from the Institute along with the Australian Research Centre of Excellence conducted laboratory tests to develop lethal and sub-lethal benchmarks for coral exposed to dredging-generated sediments related to offshore developments.

The researchers tested two species of coral found in offshore locations to six levels of total suspended solids for 16 weeks, including a four week recovery period.

They tested the horizontal foliaceous species Montipora Aequituberculata and the upright branching species Acropora Millepora, both of which are found along WA’s coast.

Montipora Aequituberculata proved to be more susceptible as after 12 weeks all coral tissue under the sediment had died, exposing white coral skeleton.

Australian Institute of Marine Science senior principal research scientist Ross Jones says the sediment can affect coral by impacting their ability to feed as well as settling on the coral’s surface, causing it to expend energy cleaning itself.

“It can also attenuate light—light attenuation is a key thing because a lot of these habitats are primary producer habitats so the corals and sea life need light to photosynthesise and light is attenuated by the sediments,” Dr Jones says.

“It is like having permanently cloudy weather all the time, so it has the potential to have an effect on the marine environment.”

The study found that sediment accumulation on coral tissue was a “strong and consistent cause of tissue mortality” and resulted in the death of whole coral fragments over prolonged periods.

“What the study showed was that one species which was generally a flat plate-like coral was affected more so that the branching Acropora species because the sediment began to pile up on the coral,” Dr Jones says.

“That happened to an extent and rate at which it couldn’t clear itself, so it gradually became buried because the sedimentation rate was faster than its ability to clear itself.”

Woodside Energy funded the study and was cited as the operator of the proposed $30 billion Browse liquefied natural gas development at James Price Point, north of Broome.

Dr Jones says Woodside commissioned the study because it was investigating the effects of dredging at Browse.

“This study was initially commissioned by Woodside to try and come up with some numbers to build an environmental assessment of the project,” Dr Jones says.

He says this report is only a small amount of the research that will be conducted in the next few years into what sediment does to corals and other marine life in response to the proposed dredging.

Key West Harbor Reconnaissance Report by US Army Corp of Engineers


Perhaps most importantly, this brief 7-page report ends with the following: DV

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973; the threatened coral Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral) and Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral) could be located adjacent to the channel in the areas proposed for expansion (Figure 2) as this area is designated as critical habitat for these species. While it is possible to relocate the actual colonies of coral, the critical habitat would be permanently removed. It is highly likely that the removal of several acres of occupied designated critical habitat (habitat where the species has been shown to be able to flourish under baseline conditions) could be considered an adverse modification of critical habitat under Section 7 of the ESA. This would be Jacksonville District’s first adverse modification of critical habitat determination in the last 15 years. It is also unknown what reasonable and prudent alternatives and measures National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would include in a biological opinion to avoid the project adversely modifying designated critical habitat, as required under Section 7 of the Act. It is expected that resource agencies would oppose any channel modifications outside the existing footprint.

Academia.Edu: Dredging and shipping impacts on southeast Florida coral reefs by Brian K. Walker, et. al.
Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Australia, 9-13 July 201219A Human impacts on coral reefs: general session

Authors: Brian K. Walker 1, David S. Gilliam 1, Richard E. Dodge 1, Joanna Walczak²
1 National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, FL, USA
² Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Miami, FL, USA
Corresponding author:

Many coastal regions have experienced extensive population growth during the last century. Commonly, this growth has led to port development and expansion as well as increased vessel activity which can have detrimental effects on coral reef ecosystems. In southeast Florida, three major ports built in the late 1920’s along 112 km of coastline occur in close proximity to a shallow coral reef ecosystem. Recent habitat mapping data were analyzed in GIS to quantify the type and area of coral reef habitats impacted by port and shipping activities. Impact areas were adjusted by impact severity: 100% of dredge and burial areas, 75% of grounding and anchoring areas, and 15% of areas in present anchorage. Estimates of recent local stony coral density and cover data were used to quantify affected corals and live cover. After adjusting for impact severity,312.5 hectares (ha) of impacted coral reef habitats were identified. Burial by dredge material accounted for 175.8 ha. Dredging of port inlet channels accounted for 84.5 ha of reef removal. And 47.6 ha were impacted from a large ship anchorage. Although the full extent of all ship groundings and anchor drags associated with the ports is unknown, the measured extents of these events totaled 6 ha. Based on the adjusted impact areas,over 8.1 million corals covering over 11.7 ha of live cover were impacted. Burial impacts were the greatest. The planned expansion of two of the ports would remove an additional approximate 9.95 ha of coral reef habitat.Ongoing marine spatial planning efforts are evaluating the placement of large ship anchorages in an effort reduce future impacts from ship anchoring. However, increasing populations and shipping needs will likely continue to be prioritized over protection of these valuable natural resources.

Full text and tables at:

NOAA: National Marine Sanctuaries Program: Florida Keys 2011 Condition Report

This report is best viewed by going to the link above. Below are a few key reports–I added the bold sections which I find the most disturbing.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Condition Summary Table

1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality and how are they changing?

Conditions appear to be declining
Large-scale changes in flushing dynamics over many decades have altered many aspects of water quality; nearshore problems related to runoff and other watershed stressors; localized problems related to infrastructure. Selected conditions may inhibit the development of assemblages and may cause measurable but not severe declines in living resources and habitats. In conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency and Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the sanctuary will continue implementation of its Water Quality Protection Program and conduct long-term water quality monitoring and research to understand the effects of water transported from near-field and far-field sources, including Florida Bay on water quality in the sanctuary. New regulations prohibit discharge or deposit of sewage from marine sanitation devices (MSD) within the boundaries of the sanctuary and require MSDs be locked to prevent sewage discharge or deposit while inside sanctuary boundaries. The marine area surrounding the Florida Keys has been designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area by the International Maritime Organization. Florida Department of Health Florida Healthy Beaches Program tests for the presence of fecal coliform and enterococci bacteria in beach water on a weekly basis, at 17 locations throughout the Keys. The MEERA Project, which is designed to provide early detection and assessment of biological events occurring in the Florida Keys and surrounding waters, continues to be supported by the sanctuary. A well-established law enforcement program is in place, including NOAA Fisheries Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Coast Guard.

2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
Conditions do not appear to be changing
Long-term increase in inputs from land; large, persistent phytoplankton bloom events, many of which originate outside the sanctuary but enter and injure sanctuary resources. Selected conditions have caused or are likely to cause severe declines in some but not all living resources and habitats.

3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health and how are they changing?
Conditions do not appear to be changing
Rating is a general assessment of “all waters” of the sanctuary, knowing that in very specific locations, the rating could be as low as “poor.” Increased frequency of HABs and periodic swim advisories. Selected conditions have resulted in isolated human impacts, but evidence does not justify widespread or persistent concern.

4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
conditions appear to be improving
Historically, destructive activities have been widespread throughout the Florida Keys, but many recent management actions are intended to reduce threats to water quality. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.

5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
Conditions do not appear to be changing
In general, mangrove and benthic habitats are still present and their distribution is unchanged, with the exception of the mangrove community, which is about half of what it was historically. The addition of causeways has changed the distribution of nearshore benthic habitats in their vicinity. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resource assemblages, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in living resources or water quality. Marine zoning is used in the sanctuary to protect sensitive habitats like shallow coral reefs. Mooring buoys have been installed as a threat-reduction measure. Sanctuary staff and volunteers educate and inform boaters about the unique nature of the coral reef habitat, and organize shoreline clean-up and marine debris removal efforts. Sanctuary staff assess and restore vessel grounding injuries to seagrass and coral habitats, as well as perform coral rescue activities associated with coastal construction. Large vessel avoidance and Racon beacons in lighthouses have resulted in declines in large vessel groundings. An Area To Be Avoided was established to prevent ships larger than 50 meters in overall length from transiting through sensitive areas in the sanctuary. A well established permitting program is in place to issue a variety of permits for activities that are otherwise prohibited by sanctuary regulations. There is also a well-established law enforcement program in place, including NOAA Fisheries Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U.S. Coast Guard. State of Florida’s Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act of 1996 (§403.9321-403.9333) regulates how mangroves can be trimmed and altered, and by whom.

6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
conditions appear to be declining
Loss of shallow (<10 meters) Acropora and Montastraea corals has dramatically changed shallow habitats; regional declines in coral cover since the 1970s have led to changes in coral-algal abundance patterns in most habitats; destruction of seagrass by propeller scarring; vessel grounding impacts on benthic environment; alteration of hard-bottom habitat by illegal casitas. Selected habitat loss or alteration has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all living resources or water quality.

7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
Few studies, but no synthesis of information.

8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
conditions appear to be declining
Coastal development, highway construction, vessel groundings, over-fishing, shoreline hardening, marine debris (including derelict fishing gear), treasure salvaging, increasing number of private boats, and consequences of long-term changes in land cover on nearshore habitats. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and causes to date suggest a pervasive problem.

9. What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
conditions appear to be declining
Relative abundance across a spectrum of species has been substantially altered, with the most significant being large reef-building corals, large-bodied fish, sea turtles, and many invertebrates, including, the long-spined sea urchin. Recovery is questionable. Selected biodiversity loss has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity. Marine zoning assists in the protection of the biological diversity of the marine environment in the Keys. Mooring buoys have been installed in these zones to reduce anchor damage to coral reef biota. The sanctuary’s education and outreach team established the “Blue Star” program to help reduce the impact of divers and snorkelers on the coral reef ecosystem. NOAA has also established the Dolphin SMART program encouraging responsible viewing of wild dolphins. Sanctuary staff assesses and restores vessel grounding injuries to seagrass and coral habitats, as well as performs coral rescue activities associated with coastal construction. NOAA Fisheries Service (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) awarded $3.3 million to support Acropora coral recovery and restoration in Florida (including the Keys) and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Other coral nursery efforts are also underway that contribute to coral restoration. Private efforts examining potential of long-spined sea urchin recovery via nursery propagation and rearing are also underway. A well-established permitting program is in place to issue a variety of permits for activities that are otherwise prohibited by sanctuary regulations, including removal of the invasive lionfish from the small no-take zones. The Florida Keys “Bleach Watch” Program utilizes volunteers to provide reports from the reef on the actual condition of corals throughout the bleaching season. The sanctuary also participates in oil spill drills sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard and is a partner in the Florida Reef Resilience Program. There is a well-established law enforcement program in place.

10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Historical effects of recreational and commercial fishing and collection of both targeted and non-targeted species; it is too early to determine ecosystem effects of new fishery regulations and new ecosystem approaches to fishery management. Extraction has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in some but not all ecosystem components and reduce ecosystem integrity.

11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
conditions appear to be declining
Several species are known to exist; lionfish have already invaded and will likely cause ecosystem level impacts; impacts of other non-indigenous species have not been studied. Non-indigenous species may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity.

12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Conditions do not appear to be changing
Reduced abundance of selected key species including corals (many species), queen conch, long-spined sea urchin, groupers and sea turtles. The reduced abundance of selected keystone species has caused or is likely to cause severe declines in ecosystem integrity; or selected key species are at severely reduced levels, and recovery is unlikely.

13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
conditions appear to be declining
Hard coral and gorgonian diseases and bleaching frequency and severity have caused substantial declines over the last two decades; long-term changes in seagrass condition; disease in sea turtles; sponge die- offs; low reproduction in queen conch; cyanobacterial blooms; lost fishing gear and other marine debris impacts on marine life. The comparatively poor condition of selected key resources makes prospects for recovery uncertain.

14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
Conditions do not appear to be changing
Despite the human population decrease and overall reduction in fishing in the Florida Keys since the 1990s, heavy recreational and commercial fishing pressure continues to suppress biodiversity. Vessel groundings occur regularly within the sanctuary. Annual mean number of reported petroleum and chemical spills were around 150 during that time period, with diesel fuel, motor oil, and gasoline representing 49% of these incidents collectively. Over the long term, localized direct impacts may be overwhelmed by the adverse and wide-ranging indirect effects of anthropogenic climate change resulting in sea level rise, abnormal air and water temperatures, and changing ocean chemistry. Selected activities have caused or are likely to cause severe impacts, and cases to date suggest a pervasive problem.