Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik ZKG

Evidence reveals Caribbean corals cease growth or face erosion threat

by Caroline Kaurila on 27 Feb 2013
Caribbean coral reef James Cook University http://cms.jcu.edu.au/
Many Caribbean coral reefs have either ceased growth or are on the brink of starting to erode, which new evidence has revealed. Associate Professor Scott Smithers, from James Cook University was a part of a seven-member team of international scientists that carried out work at reefs across the Caribbean over a two-year period.

Coral reefs build their structures by both producing and accumulating calcium carbonate, which is essential for the maintenance and continued growth of coral reefs.

The research team discovered that the amount of new carbonate being added by Caribbean coral reefs is now significantly below rates measured over recent geological timescales, and in some habitats is as much as 70 per cent lower.

Associate Professor Smithers said coral reefs formed some of the planet’s most biologically diverse ecosystems, and provided valuable contributions to humans and wildlife.

However, their ability to maintain their structures and continue to grow depended on the balance between the addition of new carbonate, which is mostly produced by corals themselves, set against the loss of carbonate through various erosional processes, he said.

Associate Professor Smithers said traditionally there had been a focus on how coral reef organisms coped under present environmental conditions, but little on how coral reefs as physical structures were faring.

'We decided to give it a go by quantifying the amount of skeleton laid down by reef organisms each year to build the reef framework and comparing that to the amount of physical and biological erosion,' he said.

'We found that many reefs in the Caribbean are now in a precarious balance with very slow growth rates or erosion common.'

Associate Professor Smithers said he was invited to collaborate on the project in his role as a geomorphologist.

'I look at how reef structures grow, and the landforms and features formed by reef growth processes,' he said.

'I was working with an international team made up of scientists with particular skills required to work out the reef growth - and destruction - budgets.'

Associate Professor Smithers said 'budgets' was a term geomorphologists used when talking about sediment or calcium carbonate.

The sediment that is produced or deposited is compared to what is eroded or withdrawn, and there is a net amount. If it is positive, growth is occurring, if it is negative, the structure is breaking down.

The field sites were in located in the Bahamas, Bonaire, Belize and Grand Cayman Island.

'I was able to participate in the field work at the first three sites, but was teaching at the time of the Grand Cayman visit.

'All members of the team were involved in refining the methodology for calculating the budget, and then making the budget calculations based on field data.'

The study could have implications for the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world, despite the fact that different reefs behaved in different ways, he said.

'We hope to perform the same calculations for a variety of sites within the Indo-Pacific in the next few years.

'The reason we focused on the Caribbean reefs first is because we wanted to get the methodology developed and refined - and that is easier to achieve on Caribbean reefs because they are taxonomically and structurally less complex than reefs in the Indo-Pacific.

'This relative simplicity made the measurements and calculations necessary to derive the budgets more easy than if we had begun by focussing on reefs outside the Caribbean.'

Associate Professor Smithers said while this project was his first opportunity to see a lot of reefs in the Caribbean, he was 'shocked' by what he saw.

'Although there were some areas where the reefs seemed OK, they were generally very poor in terms of coral cover and fish compared to most reefs on the GBR,' he said.

'There are clearly parts of the GBR that are not in great shape, and there is evidence from some reefs that changes have occurred over historical timescales, but I doubt that many have reached the point we established for the Caribbean reefs where they are no longer actively building - but we need to confirm this by applying the technique here.'

The research was recently published in Nature Communications, an online multidisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing high-quality research in all areas of the biological, physical and chemical sciences.

A Leverhulme Trust (UK) International Research Network Grant funded the research. The scheme specifically supports international collaboration. James Cook Univ website
RS Sailing 660x82Giacomo Yacht SaleMackay Boats

Related Articles

Int Moth Worlds - Zhik returns to its spiritual home at 2017 Worlds
Zhik is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships Zhik, the innovative sailing apparel specialist, is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships. And, ten years on, the Moths are returning to their spiritual home on Lake Garda. Zhik and the International Moth class are virtually synonymous with each other.
Posted on 20 Jul
A Few Rays – Moisturising, Anti-Aging Action …
Consistent moisturising sun protection has an anti-aging action Consistent moisturising sun protection has an anti-aging action Out on a boat, sailors are exposed to extreme conditions for their skin. There are UV rays from the sun, hopefully some wind if you are a sailor, and the drying effects from wet and dry cycles during the course of your day
Posted on 23 Jun
BoatUS looks at accuracy of 22 Years of hurricane season predictions
BoatUS Seaworthy Program, which helps BoatUS members avoid injuries and boat damage by analyzing insurance claims data With most 2017 storm forecasts now predicting average to above-average storm activity for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season (June 1 – November 30), just how accurate are these predictions, and do boaters need to adjust their hurricane prep plans this year?
Posted on 13 Jun
Caffari to lead a team with sustainability message in Volvo Ocean Race
Sixth confirmed team out of a possible eight for the upcoming edition will amplify United Nations Environment’s campaign Caffari’s ambition is to build a multi-national, 50-50 male/female squad, with the majority under 30 years of age. As part of the sustainability focus, the messages around diversity in age and gender will be strong themes of a campaign that in sporting terms may not start as a favourite, but could easily surprise on the water.
Posted on 13 Jun
A Few Rays - What is Broad Spectrum Protection?
What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. What is Broad Spectrum sunscreen? Ultraviolet rays (UVA, UVB and UVC) only make up a small proportion of all of the sun’s rays. UVA and UVB sun-rays are however the biggest contributors to skin damage from sun.
Posted on 19 Apr
Frigid flying – Coast Guard aircrews take on New England Winter
Freezing rain? Teeth-chattering temperatures? Limited visibility? Coast Guard aircrews are still ready to fly. Freezing rain? Teeth-chattering temperatures? Limited visibility? Coast Guard aircrews are still ready to fly. At Air Station Cape Cod, aviation maintenance and electronic technicians work around the clock to ensure the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters are prepared and ready to launch. There is one thing the maintenance crews and pilots cannot control: winter weather.
Posted on 9 Feb
When whales meet sails
CAMPER helmsman Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermudez found himself nearly face to face with whale in middle of North Atlantic Ocean. Currently the database for marine mammal strikes is very sparse. We are requesting sailors and boaters help to submit information on current and past incidents, however long ago that may be. By giving a location, date, identification if possible, and any other relevant information you can help scientists better understand where marine mammals are at risk for strikes
Posted on 8 Jan
Vendée Globe – Uncertainty about weather condition in North Atlantic
Alex Thomson and Armel le Cléac'h are probably looking closely at the wind models for the North Atlantic. Alex Thomson and Armel le Cléac'h are probably looking closely at the wind models for the North Atlantic. It does not seem to be easy.
Posted on 4 Jan
10,000 metric tons of plastic enter Great Lakes every year
A new study inventories and tracks high concentrations of plastic in Great Lakes could help inform cleanup efforts A new study by Rochester Institute of Technology that inventories and tracks high concentrations of plastic in the Great Lakes could help inform cleanup efforts and target pollution prevention.Researchers found that nearly 10,000 metric tons—or 22 million pounds—of plastic debris enter the Great Lakes every year from the United States and Canada.
Posted on 2 Jan
The Deepwater Horizon aftermath
Researchers analyze 125 compounds from oil spilled in Gulf of Mexico to determine their longevity at different levels. Researchers analyze 125 compounds from oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico to determine their longevity at different contamination levels. The oil discharged into the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) rig in 2010 contaminated more than 1,000 square miles of seafloor.
Posted on 1 Jan