[Coral-List] Death and resurrection on Caribbean reefs.html

Ken Deslarzes kdeslarzes at geo-marine.com
Mon Mar 22 15:08:06 EST 2004

Death and resurrection on Caribbean reefs
Members of the coral list,

I thought you might be interested by this EurekAlert:


Ken Deslarzes
kdeslarzes at geo-marine.com

 Public release date: 18-Mar-2004

Contact: Kate Stinchcombe
kate.stinchcombe at oxon.blackwellpublishing
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Death and resurrection on Caribbean reefs
Caribbean coral reefs are deteriorating rapidly, according to a new study
published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters. Researchers from the
Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama and PBS&J, an engineering and
environmental consulting firm in Florida, analyzed cores to reconstruct the
ecological history of a reef system in Jamaica. They found that the decline
of coral in recent decades was unprecedented in the last thousand years.
Richard Aronson, a Senior Marine Scientist at the Sea Lab, was one of the
authors of the study.
"Ecologists are now realizing the full extent of damage to Caribbean reefs,
with estimates running as high as an 80 percent loss of coral throughout the
region since 1980," says Aronson. "New coral diseases, hurricanes,
overfishing of plant-eating fish, and several other kinds of disturbance
combined to convert Jamaican reefs from vibrant communities to
seaweed-covered coral graveyards, and this is the first time it's happened
in at least a thousand years." The team collected their samples by scuba
diving at Discovery Bay on the north coast of Jamaica.

They worked long aluminum pipes into the reefs by hand, then pulled out
cores representing timelines of reef history. By identifying and analyzing
the condition of the fossil corals, they were able to piece together the
changes that occurred over the last millennium. Cheryl Wapnick analyzed the
cores from Jamaica for her masters degree at the University of South
Alabama. "Doing this study was a real eye-opener," says Wapnick.

"Because I didn't get to dive in Jamaica before the coral kill, the cores
give me a perspective that most younger scuba divers don't have. They are
thrilled when they dive on Caribbean reefs, but they should be horrified!"
All is not lost, however. Team member William Precht of PBS&J, who has been
working with Aronson on the Jamaican reefs since 1978, points to signs of
new coral growth in some areas of the Caribbean, including sites in Jamaica.
"We can't tell yet how far the reefs will recover or on what time scale,"
says Precht, "so it's very exciting but we'll just have to wait and see."



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