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USGS Scientist participates in research cruise to Andros Island, Bahamas, to study historic coral-reef die-offs

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPMSC) will join researchers from Florida Atlantic University on a cruise on Florida Institute of Oceanography's new research vessel the R/V Hogarth to study the reefs of Andros Island, Bahamas, from May 9th–16th, 2018.

Coral bleaching in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, October 2015 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Two colonies of the mustard hill coral, Porites astreoides, one apparently healthy (left) and one visibly bleached (right) during a coral-bleaching event at Hen and Chickens Sanctuary Preservation Area, Plantation Key, FL, USA. When ocean temperatures were unusually warm in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in October 2015, coral bleaching resulted from the high-temperature stress. Some corals appeared to resist the stress better than others of the same species, giving hope that there is genetic diversity upon which natural selection can act. Coral restoration efforts could help coral populations persist under continued climate change by maximizing the diversity of corals used for propagation.

Like many coral reefs in the western Atlantic, the offshore reefs of the Andros Barrier Reef system, located in the northeastern Bahamas, have experienced a multiple of mass mortality events in recent decades as a result of high-temperature stress (see Coral Bleaching). These mortality events have had particularly severe impacts on the populations of the two most common reef-building species, the boulder star coral (Orbicella species) and the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). As both species are now listed under the U.S. Endangered Species act, it is critical that scientists better understand the drivers of their population declines. By quantifying the timing and extent of past coral mortality on the Andros Barrier Reef system, researchers will gain insights into the drivers of coral mortality and determine whether recent declines have a historic precedent.

 

Read what else is new at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center.