[Coral-List] Cold Florida water

Alina M. Szmant szmanta at uncwil.edu
Wed Aug 6 14:55:55 EDT 2003

I thank Rick for remembering my early battles to convince folks in the 
Florida Keys that the natural system (via upwelling, which can be caused by 
a number of physical forcing functions, including the internal bores 
documented by Leichter et al) could be a significant source of nutrients to 
Florida (and other) reefs.  Some earlier references for this include:

Lee, T.N., C. Rooth, E. Williams, M. McGowan, A.M. Szmant, and M.E. Clarke. 
1992. Influence of Florida   Current, gyres and wind-driven circulation on 
larvae transport and recruitment in Florida Keys coral reefs. Continental 
Shelf Research 12: 971-1002.

Lee, T.N., M.E. Clarke, E. Williams, A.M. Szmant and T. Berger. 1994. 
Evolution of the Tortugas Gyre and its influence on recruitment in the 
Florida Keys.  Bull. Mar. Sci.  54: 621-646.

Szmant, A.M. and A. Forrester.  1996. Water column and sediment nitrogen 
and phosphorus distribution patterns in the Florida Keys, and potential 
relationships to past and present coral reef development.  Coral 
Reefs.  15: 21-41.

Szmant, A.M.  1997.  Nutrient effects on coral reefs: the importance of 
topographic and trophic complexity on nutrient dynamics.  Proc. 8th 
Internat. Coral Reef Symp., Panama, June 1996. Vol. 2: 1527-1532.

Szmant, A. M.  2002.  Nutrient enrichment on coral reefs: Is it a major 
cause of coral reef decline?  Estuaries   25:  743-766

The latter is an extensive review  of nutrient-coral reef related 
literature, and includes a discussion of the general significance of 
upwelling to reef systems.

I want to re-iterate, however, a point made by Miller et al in their press 
release:  just because natural inputs of nutrients may be frequent and 
significant on coral reefs does not mean that  humans can willy-nilly dump 
sewage and other sources of nutrients (e,g, fish farms) onto reefs without 
harm, especially when nutrients are associated with heavy sediment loading, 
and reefs are simultaneously impacted by over-fishing and non-nutrient 
pollutants.   Unfortunately, developers and others often try to mis-use 
scientific documents for their economic benefit.  On the other hand, some 
environmentalists go over-board trying to ascribe blame for coral reef 
degradation to nutrients without having all the facts in hand.  Tough game 
we play!


Alina Szmant

At 07:36 PM 8/1/03 -1000, Rick Grigg wrote:
>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.
> >Lauren
> >___________________________________________
> >
> >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
> >the
> >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
> >
> >runoff.
> >
> >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
> >Oceanography,
> >said, "We studied upwelling of cool, subsurface water at multiple sites
> >along
> >the Florida Keys reef tract. Our results show that this natural source
> >of
> >nutrients can deliver as much as 20-40 times more nitrogen and
> >phosphorus
> >to the outer reef tract than estimates of nutrient pollution from sewage
> >and
> >storm water runoff."
> >
> >While these numbers are remarkable it's important to provide context.
> >Coauthor
> >Dr. Steven Miller, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, added,
> >"I'm sure some people will try to use these numbers to claim that
> >changing
> >sewage disposal practices in the Keys is unnecessary, but they would be
> >wrong. What our results show is that a major nutrient pump exists
> >offshore.
> >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
> >Aquarius
> >underwater laboratory in Key Largo.
> >
> >"What I like about this study is that it provides a balanced approach to
> >a
> >complicated issue. They acknowledge that while upwelling is a
> >significant
> >source of nutrients to the offshore reefs, they don't dismiss the need
> >to
> >better understand the dynamics of nearshore nutrient pollution making
> >its
> >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
> >an
> >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
> >the
> >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,
> >they
> >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
> >with
> >increasing depth."
> >
> >Interestingly, the upwelled water makes it to the reef a lot more often
> >than
> >people realize, sometimes several times a day. "The presence of this
> >water
> >on the reef for extended periods of time has the potential to
> >significantly
> >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
> >University.
> >Boyer manages the largest and longest running water quality monitoring
> >program in south Florida. "Our sanctuary-wide, quarterly monitoring
> >efforts
> >occasionally pick up these events, but are not designed to quantify this
> >type
> >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
> >collected
> >from the reef. This part of the work, led by Hannah Stewart, University
> >of
> >California - Berkeley, suggests that the algae are directly using
> >nitrogen from
> >the upwelled water. "This is particularly interesting because some
> >scientists
> >believe that this special form of nitrogen is a sewage signal - a
> >smoking gun
> >- for pollution, while our work clearly suggests otherwise for the
> >offshore
> >reefs," added Miller.
> >
> >These results are the culmination of work first started in the early
> >1990s,
> >initially with single deployments of oceanographic equipment that
> >detected
> >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
> >natural
> >source of nutrients for the Florida Keys reef tract, things like coral
> >disease,
> >global warming, and overfishing are also important. The impacts of
> >humans
> >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
> >titled
> >"Episodic nutrient transport to Florida coral reefs" (Limnology and
> >Oceanography Vol 48:1394-1407) and is available free at
> >http://aslo.org/lo/
> >toc/vol_48/issue_4/1394.pdf.
> >
> >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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Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Coral Reef Research Group
Professor of Biology
Center for Marine Science
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
5600  Marvin K. Moss Lane
Wilmington  NC  28409-5928
tel:  (910)962-2362  fax:  (910)962-2410
email:  szmanta at uncwil.edu

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