Executive Summary for July 28th

In this weekly roundup, we review the latest ocean news as scientists find that laboratory-grown corals help reefs recover, sharks may also be key to healthy coral reefs and another huge Pacific Ocean garbage patch is discovered.

Published on July 28, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Coral Gardening’ Helps Restore Reefs

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are among the most degraded in the world, with staghorn coral declining 90 percent over the past four decades.

Now a new first-of-its-kind study finds that growing corals in the laboratory and transplanting them in the ocean is an effective way to help reefs recover. The research, led by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, studied laboratory-raised staghorn corals that were transplanted at several reef sites in Florida and Puerto Rico. The United States in 2006 listed staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

“Currently, thousands of corals are propagated and outplanted onto degraded reefs on a yearly basis, representing a substantial increase in the abundance, biomass, and overall footprint of A. cervicornis,” wrote the authors, who evaluated the success of the corals two years after they were transplanted. “We show that current restoration methods are very effective, that no excess damage is caused to donor colonies, and that once outplanted, corals behave just as wild colonies.”

The scientists recommended that 10 percent of healthy staghorn coral be collected from the ocean for laboratory propagation.

“Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective,” Stephanie Schopmeyer, a University of Miami coral biologist and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Healthy coral reefs are essential to our everyday life and successful coral restoration has been proven as a recovery tool for lost coastal resources.”

Will Saving Sharks Save Coral Reefs?

Just in time for Shark Week, scientists have found that healthy coral reefs off the west coast of Australia also boast large populations of sharks.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia spent four months investigating coral reefs on the remote Kimberley region, using cameras to document the presence of sharks and other fish around coral reefs.

“They observed an unexpectedly high number of sharks in the region, suggesting sharks play a key role in regulating the health of coral reefs,” the university said in a statement. “The study also aimed to assess how marine reserves contributed to the protection of healthy shark populations and reefs. The team will now commence processing the samples to understand how the presence of sharks contributes to the health of coral reefs. They also intend to assess how marine reserves contribute to the protection of healthy shark populations and reefs.”

Another Great Pacific Garbage Patch Discovered

Researchers voyaging across the South Pacific have found another massive patch of plastic, the counterpart to the North Pacific garbage patch. The South Pacific garbage patch may be as large as 1 million square miles (2.6 million square km), or about 1.5 times the size of the state of Texas.

“We discovered tremendous quantities of plastic. My initial impression is that our samples compared to what we were seeing in the North Pacific in 2007, so it’s about 10 years behind,” Charles Moore, who discovered the North Pacific garbage patch, told ResearchGate.

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