[Coral-List] Black reefs

Amanda_Meyer at fws.gov Amanda_Meyer at fws.gov
Tue Sep 13 15:13:15 EDT 2011

As the Refuge Manager of the Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), 
I am thrilled to see the dialogue and attention given to this subject. The 
Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying to secure funds for ship wreck 
removal at both Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs for several years now, 
and I am glad that the subject of ship wrecks and their impacts on remote 
reefs and atolls has come to light. 
Dr. Birkeland has mentioned in a previous post, and Dr. Rohwer has pointed 
out in his ISRS paper, that these remote atolls and reefs have a very 
different chemistry and are unlike continental or volcanic reefs.  This is 
a point to remember when dealing with ship wrecks in remote areas that 
experience high levels of water exchange with the open ocean and low 
levels of nutrients.  As a scientists I appreciate the hard work of Dr. 
Rohwers teams, and as a manager I rely on good science to make critical 
management decisions.
I hope this dialogue continues to highlight the need to remove these 
wrecks from our remote refuges and spectacular reefs while they are still 
somewhat intact, and resilient.

Amanda L Meyer 
Wildlife Refuge Manager
Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWR
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(808)792-9551 office
(808)927-2511 cell

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:                 [Coral-List] concurring with Forest
Date:            Mon, 12 Sep 2011 21:17:46 -1000
From:            Charles Birkeland <charlesb at hawaii.edu>
To:              coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov

For decades, ecologists have been evaluating the hypothesis that diversity 
supports stability. This is still being debated, but it is most often 
accepted. When considered at the higher levels of taxa (phyla and 
classes), coral reefs are possibly the most diverse of ecosystems. And yet 
as diverse as they are, when coral reef communities experience the 
deposition of scrap metal in areas relatively far from human settlements 
and exposed to massive water exchange with the open ocean (e.g., Kingman 
Reef, Rose Atoll), they can purportedly collapse into a system of black 
slime of prokaryotes. On the other hand, while in harbors or lagoons with 
a number of shipwrecks and with longer residency time of enclosed water 
(e.g., Pago Pago, American Samoa; Apra Harbor, Guam; Chuuk Lagoon and Beqa 
Lagoon), the surrounding coral communities persist or even benefit from 
the three-dimensional metal structures. As Forest mentioned, and I 
concurred in my previous missive, iron-limitation or other matters of 
context might be key factors determining differences among the reef 
systems’ responses to scrap metal. As suggested by Forest, coral reefs on 
basaltic islands might be less vulnerable to scrap metal than are those on 
atolls. But whether the difference is solely a result of relative 
availability of iron, or whether it is a combination of factors far away 
from human populations, it does call attention to the fact that the 
diverse coral reef systems are not resistant or stable and can be 
drastically affected by the availability or surplus of a few key 
nutrients. This whole matter is reviewed nicely in the ISRS Briefing Paper 
3.  How can such a diverse system be so unstable with the input of any of 
these nutrients?

The prokaryotes are possibly directly affected by the iron, and the 
eukaryotic biota, no matter how diverse, are overwhelmed by the 
prokaryotes out of control. Paleontologist Peter Ward explained in his 
Medea hypothesis how, in the geological past, prokaryotes occasionally had 
global population growth out of control, altered the atmosphere and ocean 
chemistry, and caused mass extinctions of the more complex eukaryotes. He 
then listed a number of characteristics of the behavior of human 
populations that make humans the only species of eukaryote that behaves 
like prokaryotes. It is tempting to develop analogies between the 
prokaryotes with iron (or combination of substances and conditions) from 
scrap metal overwhelming the diverse coral reef community and humans with 
fossil fuels overwhelming the diverse biosphere, but I will refrain.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Szmant, Alina" [szmanta at uncw.edu]
Sent: 09/04/2011 07:36 PM AST
To: andrew ross <andyroo_of72 at yahoo.com>; Todd Barber 
<reefball at reefball.com>; "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" 
<coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Black reefs

I'd like to in part disagree with the observations being posted.  From my 
observations, it depends on the type of iron matrix:  For example, in the 
Florida Keys there are a large number of channel markers that are iron I 
beams, and they have lots of corals growing on them, as do oil rigs that I 
am fairly sure have iron in their metal.  Also, I have seen wrecks of 
steel-hulled ships (e.g.  the Arimora in the Bahamas, one in Dry Tortugas, 
name escapes me) that are overgrown by large corals.   On the other hand, 
I have seen ship wrecks surrounded by blue-green algae (one near Spanish 
Wells has phosphate rock pouring out of cracks in the hull), with few 
corals alive anywhere nearby within 50 or more yards.  Basically my 
message is that one shouldn't generalize to iron per se being bad for 
corals.  Volcanic rocks rich in iron are wonderful coral settlement sites!

Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of andrew ross
Sent: Saturday, September 03, 2011 10:42 AM
To: Todd Barber; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Black reefs

Todd & List,
Interesting timing. We set some propagated Acropora to EcoReefs in Montego 
Bay, Jamaica, last month using steel wire that I suppose was a little too 
well "cured" (we age galvanized binding wire to eliminate problems with 
toxicity) and had rusted. Everything planted on the first day is fine, but 
maybe <10% of the fragments set on the second day came up with some sort 
of banding syndrome starting at the wire. I've never had this before at 
all. It seems the disease is either facilitated by the rusting iron or the 
disease is in the sand of the site and the wire picked it up when it was 
on the bottom, or both. Either way, we file it under "lessons learned" and 
won't use rusted nails or wire again. Rust does occur after the corals are 
set, particularly at the point of wire-tissue contact, but this has never 
been a problem. It might be interesting to ask Bowden-Kerby, Lirman and 
Hernandez if their nursery steel was new or rusty and if it made a 
difference. They  are epoxy coating them these days, so far as I know. A

From: Todd Barber <reefball at reefball.com>
To: Forest Rohwer <frohwer at gmail.com>
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Saturday, September 3, 2011 7:51 AM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Black reefs

At the Reef Ball Foundation, we've been talking about the negative effect 
iron on corals for years.  (One reason we don't allow iron in any of our
designed reef modules).

If anyone thinks it's not real...go to anybody that keeps a high end 
"live" tank and throw in some rebar and wait a while you will see it all
turning black, algaes taking over, and a dramatic increase in aerobic
activity....which causes the sulfur odor from hydrogen sulphide.

We maintain the only responsible habitat enhancement for reefs use 
that do not have direct chemical biological impacts either toxic OR a
nutrient (as in the case of the mineral Iron).


Todd R Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
3305 Edwards Court
(609 PORTIA N ST, NOKOMIS, FL 34275 AFTER Aug. 5th)
Greenville, NC 27858
252-353-9094 (Direct/Office)
941-484-7482 (Home AFTER August 5th)
941-720-7549 (Cell & Goggle Voice)
toddbarber Skype

www,reefball.org (Reef Ball Foundation)
www.artificialreefs.org (Designed Artificial Reefs)
www.reefbeach.com (Reefs for Beach Erosion)
www.eternalreefs.com (Memorial Reefs)
www.reefball.com (Reef Ball Foundation)

On Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 8:10 PM, Forest Rohwer <frohwer at gmail.com> wrote:

> Black reefs are associated with shipwrecks or other debris in this
> region of the world. These sites are interesting both from a
> conservation and scientific point of view. As a conservation issue,
> they are amazingly destructive. Kingman, one of the jewels of the USA
> coral reefs, has lost >1 km of the lagoon in less than 3 years. An old
> wreck on Fanning atoll has killed about 10% of their reef.
> Visually, the black reefs are some of the eeriest places I've ever
> seen. The bottom is completely covered in different algae (including
> cyanobacterial mats), the water is filled with marine snow, and dark
> precipitate on the benthos (probably sulfur). We just published a
> paper in ISME where we have recreate the precipitate, cloudiness, and
> coral death in microcosms by combining rubble from the black reefs,
> with corals and an iron addition. Addition of antibiotics blocks the
> coral death, precipitate, and marine snow, suggesting a microbial
> role.
> The black reefs are probably caused by iron-enrichment from the wrecks
> and debris. We think black reefs are specific to non-emergent coral
> reefs, where iron is a limiting nutrient. Our current model is that
> iron stimulation of algae leads to increased microbial activity and
> coral death. In support of this, metagenomic analysis of the microbial
> community showed an enrichment of iron-related pathogenicity factors.
> If you are interested in the science, the please see the ISME journal
> (
> ).
> If you are interested in conservation, then please help us petition
> the congress to support removal of the wrecks and debris. Please
> contact Emily Douce <Emily.Douce at marine-conservation.org> at the
> Marine Conservation Biology Institute.
> To see how messed up these sites are, please look at the National
> Geographic write up
> (

> ).
> Sorry for the long post,
> Forest Rohwer
> frohwer at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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