Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eight-Day Undersea Mission Begins Experiment to Improve Coral Reef Restoration

18.06.2008
Scientists have begun an eight-day mission, in which they are living and working at 60 feet below the sea surface, to determine why some species of coral colonies survive transplanting after a disturbance, such as a storm, while other colonies die.

Coral reefs worldwide are suffering from the combined effects of hurricanes, global warming, and increased boat traffic and pollution. As a result, their restoration has become a priority among those who are concerned.

Using as a home base the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Aquarius--an underwater facility for science and diving located in Key Largo, Florida--a team of "aquanauts" is working to protect coral reefs from this barrage of threats by investigating ways to improve their restoration.

"It's like living on the space station, except that it's underwater," said Iliana Baums, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State and a collaborator on the project. "The job is dangerous because, once the aquanauts descend, their tissues become saturated with nitrogen. If they were to return to the surface quickly, they would get the bends--an often deadly illness in which tiny bubbles form inside the body. As a result, the divers at the end of their mission must spend an entire day depressurizing by making their way to the surface slowly."

A molecular ecologist, Baums is providing the genetic expertise that will reveal whether particular coral colonies contain forms of genes that allow them to survive transplantation and other stresses, such as increasing sea temperatures. The team has collected hundreds of coral fragments from two species: staghorn coral--which is listed as threatened under the United States Endangered Species Act--and a type of star coral that is common throughout the Caribbean. "We carefully designed the experiment in order to minimize its impact on natural populations," said Baums, who added that one of the collection sites was slated for development, and the corals there would have died anyway.

The researchers are splitting each of the fragments in half and placing one half in a shallow site (30 feet deep) and the other half in a deep site (60 feet deep) to see how they respond over time. "By splitting the fragments, we know that they are the same genetically, and we then can determine whether their abilities to withstand transplanting are due to their genetic makeup or to some environmental factor," said Baums.

While her colleagues in Aquarius transplant corals into the deep site, Baums and Margaret Miller, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the project's leader, are transplanting corals into the shallow site. Once the animals are established, the team will return to the sites monthly to measure, among other things, the corals' growth rates, their photosynthesis rates, and the biodiversity of the beneficial algae that live inside their cells.

The scientists expect that the study's results will help them to improve coral restoration efforts in the future. "The experiment will tell us why some corals die while others live after transplantation," said Baums. "We want to know if some corals die after transplantation because they already were weakened by an external force or because they are genetically weaker than some other individuals. Coral reefs are important because they protect our shores from wave action and create habitat for fish, but they also are beautiful. I am glad that I am able to apply my scientific expertise to their protection."

Other scientists involved with the project include Dana Williams from the University of Miami and NOAA, Lauri MacLaughlin from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Abel Valdivia from the University of Miami and NOAA, Ken Nedimyer from the Coral Restoration Foundation, Mike Durako from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Cheryl Woodley from NOAA. This research is funded by a grant from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation fund to the University of North Carlonia at Wilmington.

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>