[Coral-List] Cold Florida water

Rick Grigg rgrigg at iniki.soest.hawaii.edu
Sat Aug 2 01:36:17 EDT 2003

To the list,

	It would be nice to see acknowledgement of Alina Szmant somewhere in this
write-up as the person who orignally discovered the significance of
upwelling off the Florida east coast.

						Rick Grigg, University of Hawaii

At 08:43 AM 7/31/03 -0400, Lauren Batte wrote:
>Melissa, Below is a recent press release related to your question.
>Scientists Identify Important Source of
>Nutrients to Florida's Coral Reefs
>July 24, 2003
>Dr. James Leichter
>Scripps Institution of Oceanography
>(858) 822-5330 jleichter at ucsd.edu
>Dr. Steven Miller
>NOAA's National Undersea Research Center
>University of North Carolina at Wilmington
>(305) 451-0233 millers at uncw.edu
>UNCW professor teams with Scripps and UC-Berkeley scientists to identify
>important source of nutrients to Florida's coral reefs
>Key Largo, Florida -- Coral reef scientists were surprised to learn that
>deep ocean is the source of 20-40 times more nitrogen and phosphorus on
>the outer coral reef than nutrient pollution from sewage and storm water
>A new study published this month documents a large and not previously
>quantified source of nutrients to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys -
>the deep
>ocean. Lead author Dr. James Leichter, Scripps Institution of
>said, "We studied upwelling of cool, subsurface water at multiple sites
>the Florida Keys reef tract. Our results show that this natural source
>nutrients can deliver as much as 20-40 times more nitrogen and
>to the outer reef tract than estimates of nutrient pollution from sewage
>storm water runoff."
>While these numbers are remarkable it's important to provide context.
>Dr. Steven Miller, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, added,
>"I'm sure some people will try to use these numbers to claim that
>sewage disposal practices in the Keys is unnecessary, but they would be
>wrong. What our results show is that a major nutrient pump exists
>However, nothing in our study contradicts the fact that we also have a
>nearshore pollution problem."
>The study was published this month in the journal Limnology and
>Oceanography and was a collaboration among scientists from
>ScrippsInstitution of Oceanography, the University of California at
>Berkeley, and the
>University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). Much of the work
>conducted during this study utilized saturation diving and the NOAA
>underwater laboratory in Key Largo.
>"What I like about this study is that it provides a balanced approach to
>complicated issue. They acknowledge that while upwelling is a
>source of nutrients to the offshore reefs, they don't dismiss the need
>better understand the dynamics of nearshore nutrient pollution making
>way offshore," said Dr. Brian Keller, science coordinator for the
>Florida Keys
>National Marine Sanctuary.
>The large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus are brought to the reef by
>oceanographic process called upwelling, in this case a specific, high
>frequency form of upwelling caused by internal tidal bores. Leichter
>explained, "It's a little like waves sloshing back and forth in a
>bathtub, but in
>the ocean at much grander scales and in ways that sometimes cause surges
>of deep water to move into much shallower areas. When this happens in
>Keys, nutrients brought to the reef can increase 10 to 100 times over
>background levels."
>The upwelled water is rich in nutrients due to natural processes. When
>plankton and other organisms produced or living in surface waters die,
>often sink to the bottom. Leichter further explained, "As these
>materials sink,
>they start to break down, they get eaten and excreted, and the end
>result is
>the slow and continuous addition of nitrogen and phosphorus to waters
>increasing depth."
>Interestingly, the upwelled water makes it to the reef a lot more often
>people realize, sometimes several times a day. "The presence of this
>on the reef for extended periods of time has the potential to
>affect the biology of corals, sponges, and algae," added Leichter.
>"This study illustrates the importance of assessing water quality over
>different time scales," said Dr. Joe Boyer of Florida International
>Boyer manages the largest and longest running water quality monitoring
>program in south Florida. "Our sanctuary-wide, quarterly monitoring
>occasionally pick up these events, but are not designed to quantify this
>of detail," he added.
>Another important result of the study documents that a special form of
>nitrogen in the upwelled water is also present in samples of algae
>from the reef. This part of the work, led by Hannah Stewart, University
>California - Berkeley, suggests that the algae are directly using
>nitrogen from
>the upwelled water. "This is particularly interesting because some
>believe that this special form of nitrogen is a sewage signal - a
>smoking gun
>- for pollution, while our work clearly suggests otherwise for the
>reefs," added Miller.
>These results are the culmination of work first started in the early
>initially with single deployments of oceanographic equipment that
>the surprising frequency and intensity of the upwelling events, and
>later with
>equipment deployments throughout the Keys to document the regional
>significance of these events. "While our study focused on a large
>source of nutrients for the Florida Keys reef tract, things like coral
>global warming, and overfishing are also important. The impacts of
>in this system are clearly dramatic and complex. That's why it's
>important to
>accurately assess variability in this system that is a normal part of
>the system," added Leichter.
>The paper by James Leichter, Hannah Stewart, and Steven Miller, is
>"Episodic nutrient transport to Florida coral reefs" (Limnology and
>Oceanography Vol 48:1394-1407) and is available free at
>This research was funded by NOAA's National Undersea Research Center at
>the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). The Aquarius
>underwater laboratory is owned by NOAA and is managed by UNCW
>(www.uncw.edu/aquarius). Director UNCW National Undersea Research Center
>For more information, contact:
>Steven Miller
>millers at uncw.edu
>7/25/03 1:25 PM Environmental News Network - ENN Direct
>Melissa Keyes wrote:
>>   Hello Listers,
>>   Many florida divers I know have been comenting for
>> several weeks that there's a ferocious thermocline, at
>> 50 feet and deeper, and the deeper water has been as
>> cold as 55*f.
>>   The beginning of lobster season for some was very
>> successful, as the bugs are just kind of sitting
>> around.  In some places normally active fish have been
>> laying on their sides on the bottom.
>>   Has there been any noticeable effect on corals in
>> that area?
>>   Is there a theory as to what's causing this?  Is it
>> related to the very warm anomally in the North-eastern
>> Atlantic several months ago?
>>   One friend said it's because "Hell is finally
>> freezing over."
>>   Please forgive my *'measures.
>>   Cheers,
>>   Melissa Keyes, s/v Vinga
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