Preparing For Reef Wipeout, Corals Bred In Captivity

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Coral spawning at the Horniman museum. Photograph: James Craggs/Horniman Museum

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in the UK is doing important work related to coral reef regeneration. Thanks to Damian Carrington and the Guardian for bringing this to our attention:

New lab-bred super corals could help avert global reef wipeout

Pioneering research on cross-species coral hybrids, inoculations with protective bacteria and even genetic engineering could provide a lifeline for the ‘rainforests of the oceans’

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Coral reefs are globally important habitats

New super corals bred by scientists to resist global warming could be tested on the Great Barrier Reef within a year as part of a global research effort to accelerate evolution and save the “rainforests of the seas” from extinction.

Researchers are getting promising early results from cross-breeding different species of reef-building corals, rapidly developing new strains of the symbiotic algae that corals rely on and testing inoculations of protective bacteria. They are also mapping out the genomes of the algae to assess the potential for genetic engineering.

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Planulae held in the tentacles of Tubastrea coccinea prior to release

Innovation is also moving fast in the techniques need to create new corals and successfully deploy them on reefs. One breakthrough is the reproduction of the entire complex life cycle of spawning corals in a London aquarium, which is now being scaled up in Florida and could see corals planted off that coast by 2019. Continue reading

The Value Of Coral Reef

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Economic value of coral reefs for tourism (A). This figure summarises the combined dollar values of expenditures for on-reef and reef-adjacent tourism. Reefs without assigned tourism value are grey; all other reefs present values binned into quintiles. Lower panels show Kenya and Tanzania (B), South-central Indonesia (C), and Northern Caribbean, with part of Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas (D). (Further maps can be seen in Appendix A and online at maps.oceanwealth.org

A country that depends on its coral reef to attract visitors, as Belize does, has every reason to pay attention to the various sciences paying attention to those reefs. Mostly marine biologists, perhaps, but also economists. Geeks and wonks are heroically gathering information, processing it, publishing it and if not for The Nature Conservancy’s efforts some of us might not ever see it.

The August, 2017 issue of Marine Policy, an academic journal, carries the article “Mapping the global value and distribution of coral reef tourism” by the scientists Mark Spalding, Lauretta Burke, Spencer A. Wood, Joscelyne Ashpole, James Hutchison, and Philine zu Ermgassen and TNC’s Cool Green Science has a summary in common language. Also they complement the academic illustration above with one of their own:

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Screen shot from the Atlas of Ocean Wealth showing global reef value to tourism. © The Nature Conservancy

If it’s true that people reveal their true values by how they spend their money, coral reefs are very valuable indeed. In fact, according to a new study in the Journal Marine Policy coral reef tourism generates $36 billion (U.S) in global value every year. Continue reading

Let the Corals Have Their Colors

Partially bleached coral in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Coral reefs worldwide are at risk of damage from the suncscreen ingredient oxybenzone. PHOTO: AP

Partially bleached coral in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Coral reefs worldwide are at risk of damage from the suncscreen ingredient oxybenzone. PHOTO: AP

Corals worldwide are losing their colors, they are getting bleached. We’d discussed how stress due to global warming and climate change is forcing corals to drive out the zooanthellae that give them their colors. And now here’s more evidence on how human lifestyles are affecting life beneath the waters.

New research about sunscreen’s damaging effects on coral reefs suggests that you might want to think twice before slathering it on. Reports about the harmful environmental effects of certain chemicals in the water have been circulated for years, but according to the authors of a new study, the chemicals in even one drop of sunscreen are enough to damage fragile coral reef systems. Some 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotions wind up in coral reefs around the world each year.

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Where Are the Colors?

These images, taken in American Samoa, show the devastation caused by coral bleaching between December 2014 and February 2015. PHOTO: BBC

These images, taken in American Samoa, show the devastation caused by coral bleaching between December 2014 and February 2015. PHOTO: BBC

Yet another effect of global warming and changing ecosystems. Corals worldwide are at risk from a major episode of bleaching which turns reefs white.Although reefs represent less than 0,1% of the world’s ocean floor, they help support about a quarter of all marine species. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the livelihoods of 500 million people and income worth over $30bn (£19,6bn) are at stake.

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