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

Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands by CA Downs, et. al.

Coral-list post by Cheryl Woodley

I’d like to bring to your attention a new study published yesterday in the
journal *Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology* showing
that a chemical widely used in personal care products such as sunscreen,
poses an ecological threat to corals and coral reefs and threatens their

Oxybenzone (also known as BP-3; Benzophenone-3) is found in over 3,500
sunscreen products worldwide, and pollutes coral reefs from swimmers
wearing sunscreens and through wastewater discharges from municipal sewage
outfalls and from coastal septic systems. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of
sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year, much of which
contains between one and 10% oxybenzone. The authors estimate that this
puts at least 10% of global reefs at risk of high exposure, based on reef
distribution in coastal tourist areas.

Toxicopathological effects of the sunscreen UV filter, oxybenzone on coral
planulae demonstrates that exposure of coral planulae (baby coral) to
oxybenzone, produces gross morphological deformities, damages their DNA,
and, most alarmingly, acts as an endocrine disruptor. The latter causes the
coral to encase itself in its own skeleton leading to death.

These effects were observed as low as 62 parts per trillion, the equivalent
to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools

Measurements of oxybenzone in seawater within coral reefs in Hawaii and the
U.S. Virgin Islands found concentrations ranging from 800 parts per
trillion to 1.4 parts per million. This is over 12 times higher than the
concentrations necessary to impact on coral

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, pp 1-24

First online: 20 October 2015

Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands
C. A. Downs, Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Roee Segal, John Fauth, Sean Knutson, Omri Bronstein, Frederic R. Ciner, Rina Jeger, Yona Lichtenfel and 5 more

UV light on corals

Special thanks to

$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95 *

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.
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Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an ingredient in sunscreen lotions and personal-care products that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges. We examined the effects of oxybenzone on the larval form (planula) of the coral Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity in vitro to coral cells from this and six other coral species. Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light. Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing oxybenzone concentrations. Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own skeleton. The LC50 of planulae exposed to oxybenzone in the light for an 8- and 24-h exposure was 3.1 mg/L and 139 µg/L, respectively. The LC50s for oxybenzone in darkness for the same time points were 16.8 mg/L and 779 µg/L. Deformity EC20 levels (24 h) of planulae exposed to oxybenzone were 6.5 µg/L in the light and 10 µg/L in darkness. Coral cell LC50s (4 h, in the light) for 7 different coral species ranges from 8 to 340 µg/L, whereas LC20s (4 h, in the light) for the same species ranges from 0.062 to 8 µg/L. Coral reef contamination of oxybenzone in the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from 75 µg/L to 1.4 mg/L, whereas Hawaiian sites were contaminated between 0.8 and 19.2 µg/L. Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.

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.”

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

Huffington Post: 20 New Species Of Coral Listed As Threatened

The Center for Biologic Diversity deserves the credit for starting the process with NOAA to designate these corals. DeeVon

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is protecting 20 types of colorful coral by putting them on the list of threatened species, partly because of climate change.

As with the polar bear, much of the threat to the coral species is because of future expected problems due to global warming, said David Bernhart, an endangered-species official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These coral species are already being hurt by climate change “but not to the point that they are endangered yet,” he said.

Climate change is making the oceans warmer, more acidic and helping with coral diseases like bleaching — and those “are the major threats” explaining why the species were put on the threatened list, Bernhart said in a Wednesday conference call.

Other threats include overfishing, runoff from the land, and some coastal construction, but those are lesser, Bernhart said.

Five species can be found off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They include pillar coral, rough cactus coral and three species of star coral. The other 15 are in the Pacific Ocean area near Guam and American Samoa, but not Hawaii.

The agency looked at listing 66 species, but Wednesday listed only 20 for various reasons. All are called threatened, not endangered. Two coral species were already listed.

Coral reefs, which are in trouble worldwide, are important fish habitats.

The agency did not create any new rules yet that would prevent coral from being harvested or damaged.

“There is a growing body of expert scientists talking about a risk of mass extinction in the sea and on land,” said Elliott Norse, founder and chief scientist of the Marine Conservation Institute of Seattle. Coral “are organisms on the front line of anything that humans do.”

“I hope this wakes people up and we don’t have to lose more coral,” Norse said.




NSF: Press Release 14-025 Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs favors coral-killing sponges

Caribbean-wide study shows protected coral reefs dominated by sponges with chemical defenses
Image of a sponge smothering a living coral head on a reef


A sponge smothers a living coral head on a reef that lacks predatory angelfish.

February 24, 2014

Scientists had already demonstrated that overfishing removes angelfish and parrotfish that feed on sponges growing on coral reefs–sponges that sometimes smother the reefs. That research was conducted off Key Largo, Fla.

Now, new research by the same team of ecologists suggests that removing these predators by overfishing alters sponge communities across the Caribbean.

Results of the research, by Joseph Pawlik and Tse-Lynn Loh of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, are published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“In fact,” says Pawlik, “healthy coral reefs need predatory fish–they keep sponge growth down.”

The biologists studied 109 species of sponges at 69 Caribbean sites; the 10 most common species made up 51 percent of the sponge cover on the reefs.

“Sponges are now the main habitat-forming organisms on Caribbean coral reefs,” says Pawlik.

Reefs in the Cayman Islands and Bonaire–designated as off-limits to fishing–mostly have slow-growing sponges that manufacture chemicals that taste bad to predatory fish.

Fish numbers are higher near these reefs. Predatory fish there feast on fast-growing, “chemically undefended” sponges. What’s left? Only bad-tasting, but slow-growing, sponges.

Overfished reefs, such as those off Jamaica and Martinique, are dominated by fast-growing, better-tasting sponges. “The problem,” says Pawlik, “is that there are too few fish around to eat them.” So the sponges quickly take over the reefs.

“It’s been a challenge for marine ecologists to show how chemical defenses influence the structure of ocean communities,” says David Garrison, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

“With this clever study, Pawlik and Loh demonstrate that having–or not having–chemical defenses structures sponge communities on Caribbean coral reefs.”

The results support the need for marine protected areas to aid in coral reef recovery, believes Pawlik.

“Overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs, particularly by fish trapping, removes sponge predators,” write Loh and Pawlik in their paper. “It’s likely to result in greater competition for space between faster-growing palatable sponges and endangered reef-building corals.”

The researchers also identified “the bad-tasting molecule used by the most common chemically-defended sponge species,” says Pawlik. “It’s a compound named fistularin 3.”

Similar chemical compounds defend some plants from insects or grazers (deer, for example) in onshore ecosystems, “but the complexity of those ecosystems makes it difficult to detect the advantage of chemical defenses across large areas,” says Pawlik.

When it comes to sponges, the view of what’s happening is more direct, he says. “The possibility of being eaten by a fish may be the only thing a reef sponge has to worry about.”

And what happens to reef sponges may be critical to the future of the Caribbean’s corals.


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734,

Related Websites
NSF grant: Chemical ecology of sponges on Caribbean coral reefs:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Special thanks to Richard Charter

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.

Annual Climate change influences on marine infectious disease: implications for management and society by Burge, Eakin, Friedman, Froelich, Hershberger, Hoffman, Petes, Preager, Weil, Willis, Ford and Harvell.

2014. *Annual Reviews in Marine Science*. 6: 249-277

Available online:

Climate Change Influences on Marine Infectious Diseases: Implications for Management and Society
Annual Review of Marine Science
Vol. 6: 249-277 (Volume publication date January 2014)
First published online as a Review in Advance on June 27, 2013
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010213-135029

Colleen A. Burge,1 C. Mark Eakin, Carolyn S. Friedman, Brett Froelich, Paul K. Hershberger, Eileen E. Hofmann, Laura E. Petes, Katherine C. Prager, Ernesto Weil, Bette L. Willis, Susan E. Ford, and C. Drew Harvell1
1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853; email:,*


Infectious diseases are common in marine environments, but the effects of a changing climate on marine pathogens are not well understood. Here we review current knowledge about how the climate drives host-pathogen interactions and infectious disease outbreaks. Climate-related impacts on marine diseases are being documented in corals, shellfish, finfish, and humans; these impacts are less clearly linked for other organisms. Oceans and people are inextricably linked, and marine diseases can both directly and indirectly affect human health, livelihoods, and well-being. We recommend an adaptive management approach to better increase the resilience of ocean systems vulnerable to marine diseases in a changing climate. Land-based management methods of quarantining, culling, and vaccinating are not successful in the ocean; therefore, forecasting conditions that lead to outbreaks and designing tools/approaches to influence these conditions may be the best way to manage marine disease.

Special thanks to Coral-list post by Colleen Burge

PLOS ONE: Hyperspectral Sensing of Disease Stress in the Caribbean Reef-Building Coral, Orbicella faveolata – Perspectives for the Field of Coral Disease Monitoring by David A. Anderson, Roy A. Armstrong, Ernesto Weil

Published: December 04, 2013
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081478


The effectiveness of management plans developed for responding to coral disease outbreaks is limited due to the lack of rapid methods of disease diagnosis. In order to fulfill current management guidelines for responding to coral disease outbreaks, alternative methods that significantly reduce response time must be developed. Hyperspectral sensing has been used by various groups to characterize the spectral signatures unique to asymptomatic and bleached corals. The 2010 combined bleaching and Caribbean yellow band disease outbreak in Puerto Rico provided a unique opportunity to investigate the spectral signatures associated with bleached and Caribbean yellow band-diseased colonies of Orbicella faveolata for the first time. Using derivative and cluster analyses of hyperspectral reflectance data, the present study demonstrates the proof of concept that spectral signatures can be used to differentiate between coral disease states. This method enhanced predominant visual methods of diagnosis by distinguishing between different asymptomatic conditions that are identical in field observations and photographic records. The ability to identify disease-affected tissue before lesions become visible could greatly reduce response times to coral disease outbreaks in monitoring efforts. Finally, spectral signatures associated with the poorly understood Caribbean yellow band disease are presented to guide future research on the role of pigments in the etiology.

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
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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.