Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Deep treasure

13.10.2005


Expedition to help protect Florida’s unique oculina deepwater reefs



On Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005, scientists will begin a six-day expedition to explore one of Florida’s most vital but least familiar marine resources--the spectacular deepwater coral reefs of the Oculina Bank--some 30 years after their discovery. Among the team’s goals is the start of a sustained and critically needed monitoring program to complement , and evaluate the effectiveness of, stricter regulations and enforcement activities in the area. The group will also be exploring new portions of the reef revealed by a recently developed high-resolution seafloor map.

The Oculina reefs, in depths from 250 to 300 feet, were built over the past thousand years or so by the delicate ivory tree coral Oculina varicosa, and include a series of spectacular pinnacles, mounds, and ridges that can grow up to100 feet high. Deepwater Oculina reefs are not known to exist anywhere else on the planet besides off Florida.


Fishing for shrimp and scallops has damaged a large portion of the concentrated coral areas of these reefs over the past three decades. However, the remaining healthy reefs still support dense and diverse populations of more than 70 fish species and are critical breeding grounds for commercially important populations of gag and scamp grouper as well as rock shrimp. The reefs’ location directly under the Gulf Stream makes them a potentially important source of fish larvae for the entire southeast U.S. continental shelf.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution scientists first discovered the deepwater Oculina reefs with the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles in 1975. John Reed, a Harbor Branch coral expert and expedition co-principal investigator, nominated the Oculina reefs to for protection in 1981. In 1984, NOAA approved the the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) designation of 92 square miles of the Oculina reefs as a coral Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) where the use of bottom trawling, longlines, fish traps and anchoring by fishing vessels was prohibited. In 2000, the Coral HAPC was expanded to 300 square miles and now extends from Fort Pierce to Cape Canaveral. The original 92 square-mile area, now known as the Oculina Experimental Closed Area, has further restrictions including prohibition of bottom fishing for snapper and grouper species. However, surface trolling for species such as dolphin, tuna, and sailfish is still allowed in the Experimental Closed Area and the larger HAPC since it poses no threat to the reefs.

"The [SAFMC] has led the nation in managing deepwater coral ecosystems by setting up this reserve, it is now up to scientists to show if it’s working," says expedition leader Andy Shepard from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Undersea Research Center (NURC) at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

The Oculina expedition, funded by NOAA, will run from Oct. 12-18 on board the M/V Liberty Star, a NASA space shuttle support ship operated by United Space Alliance and normally used to retrieve spent solid rocket boosters. A second related expedition is planned for May 2006. To explore the reefs, researchers will be using NURC’s Phantom SII Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), an undersea robot equipped with video and still cameras and a manipulator arm for gathering samples. Team members will also be filing daily dispatches from the ship at www.at-sea.org.

One of the expedition’s goals is to "ground truth," or verify, a newly produced high-resolution multibeam sonar map of the region, which offers unprecedented resolution to reveal bottom features that were previously indistinguishable. The team will explore various areas using the ROV to compare observations with what appears on the map. This will allow scientists to associate certain colors and other map features with the type of habitat they indicate, such as sand bottom, coral ledges, or coral rubble, allowing more accurate assessment of the extent of the reefs and likely identification of previously unknown coral features.

"Understanding the extent of the reefs and where the most important habitats are will help researchers and managers determine those areas that need the greatest protection, and those that might require less protection, " says Reed.

Another important focus of the expedition will be to assess populations of snappers and groupers and choose sections of the reef for initial monitoring surveys to be used as benchmarks. Through comparisons over time with repeat visits scientists will be able to assess progress in the Oculina Experimental Closed Area for restoring coral cover and replenishing fish stocks. Recent expeditions have already revealed encouraging signs that fish populations in this section are slowly but surely increasing. In coming years, researchers hope to see populations of snappers and groupers recovering enough to again form large breeding aggregations in the area.

"We need to establish a statistically and scientifically sound basis to assess whether the habitat and fisheries are changing over time, and whether the reserve and enforcement are working," says Reed.

A final goal for the cruise will be to collect samples of Oculina coral whose genetics will be analyzed back on land and compared against that of Oculina found in shallow water, which is much more common. The purpose will be to determine if the deepwater version is a distinct species. This information is significant because the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Oceana has petitioned the federal government to include the deepwater form of Oculina under the Endangered Species Act, which would only be possible if it is in fact a genetically distinct species.

Mark Schrope | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hboi.edu
http://www.at-sea.org

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>