Saving America’s Great Barrier Reef

Saving America’s Great Barrier Reef

Coral’s really interesting, it’s a
fascinating thing because it’s an animal and it’s considered an ecosystem
engineer so it actually builds structure. Similar to trees, you know, provide
habitat for other animals. Coral reefs do the same thing. The Florida reef tract is really a
national treasure. It’s the only near- shore coral reef in the continental
United States. It’s one of the most biologically diverse places on the
planet. It’s estimated that over 70,000 jobs exist in Florida because of the
Florida reef tract and it helps to bring over 16 million visitors to the state of
Florida. The number of species that are in coral reefs rival anywhere on Earth.
There’s more species than a rainforest. Millions and millions of people survive
off of coral reefs. The Florida reef tract has declined by
over 80 percent since the 1970s. We’ve had massive drudging projects that we
estimate killed at least half a million corals—more likely double that—and
infected the reef for several kilometers around Miami. We’re in an urgent crisis
on the Florida reef tract now and we need all the resources possible to
really protect, save, and restore the reefs. This mission is unique, it’s
bringing together colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Mote
Marine Labs, and then also the team from Woods Hole is going to be doing
microbiologies. Even though we have a diverse set of scientific interest, we’re
all working together collaboratively, planning out each day to figure out what
sites we’re gonna go to and how we’re gonna meet the goals of the expedition.
We’re gonna be covering upwards of 250 miles of the Florida reef
tract and our goal is to survey 100 sites in two weeks. So as you guys know
we’re at the most remote place of our trip in the Dry Tortugas. Yesterday we
were kind of working as Erin said to the West but now we’ll be working up to the
North. Just it’s pretty treacherous like if you look at the nautical chart this
actually gives a good representation of what’s in there and so even with some of
the small boats you know we have to navigate through these coral heads. Not
very often do people have access to the entire Florida reef tract within two
weeks, but this mission allows us to do just that. Scripps is responsible on this mission
for conducting large area imagery surveys. We’ve been working with
colleagues at the University of California, San Diego to develop this
technology with partners across the world, actually, to use a series of five
thousand images to to create a large model—a view of an entire reef. What’s
happening on a reef is really dynamic, you know, you have multiple species of
corals, algae, fishes—and so we’re able to map out every single individual coral
colony in that space, and so we can go back year after year and actually track
how those corals change through time. Over the last five years we’ve been
dealing with a new, devastating coral disease outbreak throughout Florida
called the Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease. It’s been causing widespread mortality
throughout the entire reef tract with some mortality rates of up to a hundred
percent of the species, once it hits a reef.
The pathogen hasn’t been identified yet. There’s still a lot of research that we
need to do in order to identify that pathogen. We can’t just walk away from coral reefs,
they’re too important to our ecosystem and the world and they’re too important
to our economy and our society. The more research we can do and the more steps
forward we can make, the closer we are to making sure that this ecosystem survives
long-term. I definitely tend to be more optimistic about things, you know, it’s
it’s not what you see always in the news today with gloom and doom and yes, there
are certain places that are doing poorly. But there’s other sites—they’re doing
quite well, and so we’re trying to learn what are the things that people are
doing to promote reef health versus the degradation that we’re seeing other places.

8 thoughts on “Saving America’s Great Barrier Reef

  1. There's only one GREAT BARRIER REEF and it is in Australia This one should be called as Barrier reef…not great barrier reef*🙄

  2. Amazing work! Now if only we could get the US Navy onboard to help out with trying to preserve our reefs too! That would be amazing! Thank you for the work each and everyone of you provide! You are the worlds true warriors. Battle on, because our lives depend on it!!!

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