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 Robotic fish to replace animal testing
17.06.2019 | Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

nachricht Marine oil snow
12.06.2019 | University of Delaware

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: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks

17.06.2019 | Information Technology

Climate Change in West Africa

17.06.2019 | Earth Sciences

Robotic fish to replace animal testing

17.06.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>