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Study of threatened coral reefs underway

Date:
December 12, 2014
Source:
Nova Southeastern University
Summary:
A new study in Florida has successfully mapped 40 acres of staghorn coral, including some previously undiscovered reef patches. The report states staghorn corals covered nearly 100 percent of the seafloor in some areas. This is particularly astounding, as reef building, or stony, coral usually only account for 3-5 percent of the community on southeast Florida reefs.
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Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center has a long-standing tradition of researching and advocating for the protection of our coral reefs. To that end, NSU researcher Brian Walker, Ph.D., led a recent study that mapped nearly 40 acres of local coral reefs.

The study, which was contracted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP,) mapped staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis.) Staghorn is one of two corals presently listed as threatened under the United States Endangered Species Act.

Of the 35 large and dense patches found, only seven were previously documented. Although the age, detailed boundaries and health have not yet been studied, the report states staghorn corals covered nearly 100 percent of the seafloor in some areas. This is particularly astounding, as reef building, or stony, coral usually only account for 3-5 percent of the community on southeast Florida reefs.

"This was an unexpected result of a project that was intended to improve our knowledge of the types and locations of near-shore reef habitats in southeast Florida," Walker said. "Understanding the health of these staghorn patches, their locations and the timing of their formation will provide valuable information on how to manage this threatened species in light of a changing climate."

Ocean explorer and conservationist Philippe Cousteau dove on one of the newly mapped staghorn reefs earlier this summer with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Coral Reef Conservation Program and said: "This is one of the nicest staghorn coral reefs I've ever visited."

In addition to garnering the attention of Cousteau, local marine scientists have been ecstatic to learn of these 38 acres of staghorn coral, as positive news for coral reefs has become increasingly rare.

"Coral reefs are one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet and are continuously threatened by a combination of local and global stressors, especially here in southeast Florida," said Joanna Walczak, southeast regional administrator for DEP's Florida Coastal Office. "We really only started paying attention to this northern part of the Florida Reef Tract a decade ago -- and it amazes me that we're still finding new and exciting discoveries. This is a huge win for Florida's corals and we look forward to learning more through ongoing research with our local partners."

Video footage of one of the sites can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur9JtxKs3PA&list=PLraw0H6njzMGqtQFf__KaKRLmKoiQJNC_

The final mapping report can be viewed here: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/reports/SEFL_Nearshore_Mapping_Final_Report.pdf


Story Source:

Materials provided by Nova Southeastern University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Cite This Page:

Nova Southeastern University. "Study of threatened coral reefs underway." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141212190101.htm>.
Nova Southeastern University. (2014, December 12). Study of threatened coral reefs underway. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 21, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141212190101.htm
Nova Southeastern University. "Study of threatened coral reefs underway." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141212190101.htm (accessed May 21, 2024).

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