Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shipwrecks Wrecking Coral Reefs? A Case Study At Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Date:
August 6, 2009
Source:
United States Geological Survey
Summary:
For the first time, researchers have definitively shown that shipwrecks and other man-made structures increase the potential for large invasions of unwanted species into coral reefs, even comparatively pristine ones. These unwanted species can completely overtake a reef and eliminate native corals, dramatically decreasing the diversity of marine organisms on the reef. Coral reefs can undergo fast changes in their dominant life forms, a phenomenon referred to as phase shift.

For the first time, researchers have definitively shown that shipwrecks and other man-made structures increase the potential for large invasions of unwanted species into coral reefs, even comparatively pristine ones. These unwanted species can completely overtake a reef and eliminate native corals, dramatically decreasing the diversity of marine organisms on the reef. Coral reefs can undergo fast changes in their dominant life forms, a phenomenon referred to as phase shift.

Scientists have speculated on many possible causes of phase shift, but this study is the first one to clearly show that a rapid change in the dominant life forms on a coral reef is associated with man-made structures.

In September 2007, USGS researcher Dr. Thierry Work, Dr. Greta Aeby from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and Dr. James Maragos from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studied a 100-foot vessel that wrecked in 1991 on isolated Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. They found extremely high numbers of an invasive species related to anemones and corals, Rhodactis howesii, on and around the shipwreck site. The density of this species progressively decreased with distance from the ship, and it was rare or absent in other parts of the atoll. Likewise, the researchers confirmed high densities of R. howesii around several buoys installed on the atoll in 2001.

Even though phase shifts can have long-term negative effects for coral reefs, eliminating organisms responsible for phase shifts can be difficult, particularly if they cover a large area. The extensive R. howesii invasion and subsequent loss of coral reef habitat at Palmyra highlights the importance of rapid removal of shipwrecks on corals reefs to help prevent reefs from being overgrown by invasive species.

"Why this phenomenon is occurring remains a mystery," said Work, a scientist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center's Honolulu Field Station. One possibility, he said, is that iron leaching from the ship and mooring buoy chains, accompanied with other environmental factors particular to Palmyra Atoll, are somehow promoting the growth of Rhodactis.

This research was presented at the 58th annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) held on August 2-7, 2009, in Blaine, Wash.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by United States Geological Survey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

United States Geological Survey. "Shipwrecks Wrecking Coral Reefs? A Case Study At Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803205933.htm>.
United States Geological Survey. (2009, August 6). Shipwrecks Wrecking Coral Reefs? A Case Study At Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803205933.htm
United States Geological Survey. "Shipwrecks Wrecking Coral Reefs? A Case Study At Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090803205933.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins