Warm Seawater Kills Cultivated Corals In Florida Keys

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Daily News, Environmental News

Home » Environmental News » Warm Seawater Kills Cultivated Corals In Florida Keys

In a concerning development for marine conservation, Warm seawater kills cultivated corals in the Florida Keys, resulting in the death of more than 75% of human-cultivated coral due to record-high seawater temperatures. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers discovered this alarming mortality rate. They assessed the survival of staghorn and elkhorn corals, both listed as threatened species on the endangered species list, amidst last summer and fall’s extreme heat.

The recent investigation at five reef sites revealed a grim scenario where prolonged water temperatures in the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit) led to widespread death among newly planted and existing wild coral populations. This catastrophic event, warm seawater kills cultivated corals in Florida, is attributed to human-induced climate change, exacerbated by a natural El Niño phenomenon, creating an environment too hostile for these sensitive marine animals to survive.

The findings are particularly disheartening for the conservation community, which has invested heavily in coral repopulation efforts in the region. Out of 1,500 surveyed staghorn corals, only 22% remained alive, while a mere 5% of 1,000 replanted elkhorn corals survived the thermal onslaught. The situation was dire at Looe Key, where researchers found no surviving wild or planted coral.

Warm Seawater Kills Cultivated Corals in Florida Keys

Katey Lesneski, a coral biologist and research and monitoring coordinator for NOAA’s Mission: Iconic Reefs, expressed the emotional toll of witnessing such extensive loss, highlighting not only the ecological and economic impacts but also the loss of intrinsic beauty that draws many to the Keys.

The vibrant hues typically associated with healthy coral were replaced by lifeless skeletons covered in drab, brownish-green algae, signalling an ecosystem in distress. Staghorn and elkhorn corals, known for their crucial role in providing structural habitat for diverse marine life, are now alarmingly close to disappearing from these waters.

Amidst this backdrop of ecological tragedy, there is a glimmer of hope as scientists continue to explore avenues for cultivating heat-resistant coral strains. However, Lesneski and other experts emphasize that such measures, while necessary, are not a panacea. The overarching solution lies in global efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions and enact significant policy changes to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This recent event is a stark reminder of the urgent need for concerted action to protect our planet’s fragile marine ecosystems. As the world witnesses the escalating impacts of climate change, the plight of the Florida Keys coral reefs underscores the critical need for global environmental stewardship.

Also Read: US Gas Prices Stoop Decades Low Due To El Nino

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