The Beacon

Blog Tags: Coral Reefs

Guest Post: Australia Floods Further Endanger Dugongs

© Patrick Louisy via cites.org

Guest blogger Jon Bowermaster is a writer and filmmaker. His most recent documentary is "SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories" and his most recent book is OCEANS, The Threats to the Sea and What You Can Do To Turn the Tide.

The worst flooding in 130 years has turned eastern Australia into a giant wading pond, killing dozens of people, wiping out crops and livestock, destroying tens of thousands of homes and shutting down hundreds of towns and cities.

At risk at the edge of Queensland’s shores is the nearly extinct dugong – the prehistoric marine mammal that looks part sea lion, part bulldog – that feeds off the sea grass that line the coast. Unfortunately the floodwaters are inundating those feeding grounds with sediment, topsoil, rubbish and all sorts of debris on top of toxic industrial and agricultural run-off.

Environmental officials are concerned that the floods will similarly destroy wetlands, coral reefs and marine parks along Australia’s coast. Fresh water kills coral reefs, though  it remains to be seen what the long-term effects will be from this particular flood.


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New Report: It’s Getting Hot Out There

Every year the Endangered Species Coalition creates a report that focuses on 10 species facing extinction that are currently listed or being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

This year’s report, It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top Ten Places to Save for Endangered Species, focuses on critical habitats that support endangered species and are themselves threatened by climate change. Shallow water coral reefs and Arctic sea ice, two important habitats that Oceana works hard to protect, were selected as two of the top 10 most important habitats to protect.

Oceana nominated shallow water coral reefs as a habitat that is important to save from the threats caused by human-produced carbon dioxide emissions: climate change and ocean acidification.


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Belize's Reef Fails Health Class

Last week in Belize, reef scientists, conservationists and managers gathered at the Belize Reef Summit to discuss the impacts of increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.

Belize is home to the second largest barrier reef in the world. The 2010 Belize Reef Report Card, which was released at the meeting, reveals that 60% of this protected reef is in poor to critical condition with only 8% considered in good condition. This staggering statistic is unfortunately the case for many coral reefs worldwide.  

On the final day of the summit, hundreds of Belizeans and international supporters gathered on an island on the Barrier Reef off of Belize City to create a living work of art to raise awareness about the effect of climate change on the oceans. This striking photograph was a call for world leaders to take strong action against climate change and ocean acidification at COP 16, the UN Climate Talks in Cancun that begin November 29th.


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Exploring the Gulf’s Underwater Mountains

It was an exciting day yesterday on the Latitude, as Dustin reports. We owe a hearty thank you to Nautica, who is making this leg of the expedition possible.

Saturday, September 11

The heat and humidity did not divert the Oceana crew from the important task at hand today.

After running a few more quick tests on the Spanish ROV, the crew sent it down for its first operation. Positioned near the “Alabama Alps,” the ROV was lowered nearly 250 feet to the ocean floor.

As strong underwater currents tried to move the Oceana Latitude from the operation site, expedition leader Xavier Pastor worked closely with the ships’ crew to ensure that all the necessary measures were taken to keep us on course.

Here’s Xavier Pastor:

Xavier Pastor in Oceana Latitude ROV Control Room September 11, 2010 English from Oceana on Vimeo.


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Day 29: Heading to the ‘Alabama Alps’

Senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor is back on board the Latitude after a short hiatus on land, and he’s here to tell you about the latest leg of the expedition in the “Alabama Alps,” an ecologically rich reef in the Gulf of Mexico. More on that below in the video with our chief scientist, Mike Hirshfield.

Here’s Dustin:

Thursday, September 9

As Will Race and the rest of our Alaskan colleagues headed back to Juneau this week, a new crew was making its way to Gulfport, Mississippi to board the Oceana Latitude.

Our next mission? Documenting seafloor habitat areas along the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico that may have been harmed by underwater oil.

During this leg, Spanish ROV operators Jose Manuel Saez and Josep Fleta will use a device to reach depths of approximately 1,500 feet and film in high-definition.

The Oceana Latitude also welcomed support divers Thierry Lannoy (France) and Jesus Molino (Spain), as well as Maribel Lopez from Oceana’s Madrid office. Dr. Michael Hirshfield has also returned to the ship. Here he is talking about this leg of the expedition:

Dr. Michael Hirshfield on Oceana Latitude Describes Deepwater ROV Research Sept. 9, 2010 from Oceana on Vimeo.

 


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Deep-sea Corals Caught in Plume’s Way

Deep-sea coral community of West Flower Garden Bank in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico. (NOAA image.)

The most familiar victims of the oil spill are the ones with faces: birds, sea turtles, dolphins, whales.

But as the New York Times reports today, there are at least three extensive deep-sea coral reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf. And coral reefs can’t swim or fly away from the plumes of partly dispersed oil spreading in the deep sea.

Both oil and dispersants are toxic to corals and have been found to impede the ability of corals to grow and reproduce, and the effects are amplified when they are mixed, which may be the case with these plumes.

It’s unknown exactly how sensitive deep-sea corals are to oil and dispersants, though as Oceana’s Pacific science director Jeffrey Short told the Times, “It might be locally catastrophic, particularly if there’s an oxygen-depleted mass that develops.”


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Where Are They Now?: Lynora Indiviglio

This is the second in a series of posts about the 2009 Ocean Heroes finalists.

Today we’re catching up with Lynora Indiviglio, who was a finalist last year because she founded the PalmBeach HammerHeads, South Florida's largest environmental dive club. For the past 8 years, the group has cleaned the areas reefs the last Sunday of every month. Lynora is also a member of the Palm Beach County Reef Research Team, which documents the health of Palm Beach County's Artificial Reef Program.

Sounds like she and the HammerHeads are busy as ever. She sent us this e-mail:

“The HammerHeads are still working hard at their cleanups and spreading the important news about the ocean and its importance to us all.

I met with Karen the 'Red Tide Coordinator' this past week as myself and some other HammerHeads have been collecting samples for her. We also had a representative from South Florida Water Management District come talk to us about the laboratory they have in the Everglades and what they're doing out there. She did a presentation at our March meeting and we had a full house.”

Inspired by Lynora's commitment to ocean conservation? Nominate an ocean hero you know, young or old.


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20 Years of Depressing but True Stories About the Oceans

Image via wikimedia commons.

A very happy birthday to E, the Environmental Magazine, which recently turned 20 years old. A lot has happened in the environmental world in those two decades, and a lot has also stayed the same.

This excerpt of their article retrospective brings to mind some all-too-familiar ocean threats. (Oh, and thanks for the shout-out):

"A fish in a net was the cover model for E’s July/August 1996 feature on overfishing. With the headline “Vacuuming the Sea,” the article reported that 70% of the world’s marine fish stocks had been heavily exploited.


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The 2009 Ocean Hero

john halas

After receiving nearly 500 nominations and thousands of votes for its final group of nominees, out of eight finalists, this year’s Ocean Hero is John Halas, a marine biologist and manager of the Upper Region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Halas has been working to protect coral systems in Florida since 1981. After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, he took it upon himself to develop an environmentally friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries.

“My work is something I have felt strongly about and it is really a great honor to receive this acknowledgement,” Halas said.


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