This photo gallery documents most of the work that the Scientific and Technical crew onboard of the R/V Nancy Foster did during the 1st leg of the NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystems on-going interdisciplinary research project. This project intends to research the connectivity of fish larvae through the Caribbean by obtaining biological and physical oceanographic surveys of the Virgin Islands bank ecosystems. Some of the participating agencies were: the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the University of Virgin Islands, the National Authority of Marine Issues of the Dominican Republic, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and the University of South Florida (USF).
Maria is on board of NOAA’s R/V Nancy Foster Research Ship and I’m fully enjoying the experience!
I’m part of the scientific crew that are collecting physical and biological data to look at the connectivity of larval fish through the Caribbean. This is part of NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem on-going interdisciplinary research project that obtains biological and physical oceanographic surveys of the Virgin Islands (UVI) bank ecosystems and it surroundings. The long-term sustainability of fisheries in these banks will depend on the understanding of the transport, spawning aggregations and overall larval recruitment in these waters (project’s objective).
The participating agencies are NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, University of Virgin Islands, Autoridad Nacional de Asuntos Maritimos, University of Puerto Rico and the University of South Florida.
To track our journey through the Caribbean please refer to the link posted below. It’s taking real-time GPS coordinates of the ship!
As part of an Ocean Policy course that I’m taking this semester, some of the PhD students (me included) decided to participate in Ocean’s Day at the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, Florida.
This year the Ocean’s Day theme was: Florida’s ocean generate jobs and economic development. We divided into two groups, one that was going to be lobbying for the support and co-sponsorship of Representatives: the House Memorial (HM) 363 Deepwater Horizon Disaster/Penalties and the HJR 383 Ban of Oil Exploration, Drilling, Extraction and Production in Territorial Seas.
The HM 363 urges Congress to allocate the civil penalties that are going to be collected from BP Oil Spill to three different sources: a newly created agency: Gulf Coast Recovery Council (GCRC), the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. With funding allocated to the GCRC, the Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System can be developed. This Ocean Observing System will ensure (among other things) long-term monitoring efforts devoted to establishing “baselines”, recovery and restoration in the Gulf of Mexico.
The HJR 383 proposes amendment to s. 7, Art. II of State Constitution to prohibit exploration, drilling, extraction, & production of oil beneath Florida waters between mean high-water line & seaward limit of Florida’s boundaries; exempts transportation of oil produced outside of such waters (copied and pasted from www.myfloridahouse.gov).
We scheduled 6 official meetings with Representatives from the State Affairs Committee (mentioned below) and 1 meeting with the Representative Steube’s aide. In addition, we had a table to showcase our USF – CMS! Magazines, brochures and bookmarks highlighting the College were distributed. Hand-outs for both of the groups are also distributed.
Our overall impression was very good. The HM 363 group had an amazing acceptance from all of the representatives that we spoke to. We had two promises for additional co-sponsorship, 1 official letter of support to it, and 3 promises of support to help impulse the HM in the State Affairs Committee. The HJR 383 bill had a little bit more of skepticism with some of the representatives, however we also left with 1 promise for additional co-sponsorship and 5 promises for support to the bill.
The USF – CMS Ocean Policy graduate students that participated in Ocean’s Day 2011 believe that this was a great and enriching experience. We have fully enjoyed it. We believe that talking with the representatives was a productive influence that will enhance the perspective of the representatives on both bills. Hopefully, they understood the message that we were conveying and will support both bills, specially the HM. In doing so, not only will the GCRC benefit from it but the whole state of Florida will benefit. With the implementation of the Ocean Observing System, more job opportunities can be secured and the it’s research will help increase our knowledge of the oceanography of the Gulf of Mexico.
Let’s see what happens now with these bills!
I’ll keep informing….
Confirmed meetings with state representatives:
1) Representative Luis Garcia, Jr.
2) Representative Dwayne Taylor
3) Representative Alan Williams
4) Representative Kriseman
5) Representative Rachel Burgin
6) Representative Chesnut IV
Brief Update: Representative Alan Williams co-sponsored the HJR bill!
Additional note: If more information on either of these bills is wanted, please do not hesitate to contact me.
From Science Daily News:
Deviations from normal sea surface temperatures (left) and sea surface heights (right) at the peak of the 2009-2010 central Pacific El Niño, as measured by NOAA polar orbiting satellites and NASA’s Jason-1 spacecraft, respectively. The warmest temperatures and highest sea levels were located in the central equatorial Pacific. Image credit: (Credit: NASA/JPL-NOAA)
ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2010) — A relatively new type of El Niño, which has its warmest waters in the central-equatorial Pacific Ocean, rather than in the eastern-equatorial Pacific, is becoming more common and progressively stronger, according to a new study by NASA and NOAA. The research may improve our understanding of the relationship between El Niños and climate change, and has potentially significant implications for long-term weather forecasting.
Lead author Tong Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Michael McPhaden of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, measured changes in El Niño intensity since 1982. They analyzed NOAA satellite observations of sea surface temperature, checked against and blended with directly-measured ocean temperature data. The strength of each El Niño was gauged by how much its sea surface temperatures deviated from the average. They found the intensity of El Niños in the central Pacific has nearly doubled, with the most intense event occurring in 2009-10.
The scientists say the stronger El Niños help explain a steady rise in central Pacific sea surface temperatures observed over the past few decades in previous studies-a trend attributed by some to the effects of global warming. While Lee and McPhaden observed a rise in sea surface temperatures during El Niño years, no significant temperature increases were seen in years when ocean conditions were neutral, or when El Niño’s cool water counterpart, La Niña, was present.
“Our study concludes the long-term warming trend seen in the central Pacific is primarily due to more intense El Niños, rather than a general rise of background temperatures,” said Lee.
“These results suggest climate change may already be affecting El Niño by shifting the center of action from the eastern to the central Pacific,” said McPhaden. “El Niño’s impact on global weather patterns is different if ocean warming occurs primarily in the central Pacific, instead of the eastern Pacific.
“If the trend we observe continues,” McPhaden added, “it could throw a monkey wrench into long-range weather forecasting, which is largely based on our understanding of El Niños from the latter half of the 20th century.”
El Niño, Spanish for “the little boy,” is the oceanic component of a climate pattern called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which appears in the tropical Pacific Ocean on average every three to five years. The most dominant year-to-year fluctuating pattern in Earth’s climate system, El Niños have a powerful impact on the ocean and atmosphere, as well as important socioeconomic consequences. They can influence global weather patterns and the occurrence and frequency of hurricanes, droughts and floods; and can even raise or lower global temperatures by as much as 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
During a “classic” El Niño episode, the normally strong easterly trade winds in the tropical eastern Pacific weaken. That weakening suppresses the normal upward movement of cold subsurface waters and allows warm surface water from the central Pacific to shift toward the Americas. In these situations, unusually warm surface water occupies much of the tropical Pacific, with the maximum ocean warming remaining in the eastern-equatorial Pacific.
Since the early 1990s, however, scientists have noted a new type of El Niño that has been occurring with greater frequency. Known variously as “central-Pacific El Niño,” “warm-pool El Niño,” “dateline El Niño” or “El Niño Modoki” (Japanese for “similar but different”), the maximum ocean warming from such El Niños is found in the central-equatorial, rather than eastern, Pacific. Such central Pacific El Niño events were observed in 1991-92, 1994-95, 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2009-10. A recent study found many climate models predict such events will become much more frequent under projected global warming scenarios.
Lee said further research is needed to evaluate the impacts of these increasingly intense El Niños and determine why these changes are occurring. “It is important to know if the increasing intensity and frequency of these central Pacific El Niños are due to natural variations in climate or to climate change caused by human-produced greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Results of the study were published recently in Geophysical Research Letters.
For more information on El Niño, visit:http://sealevel.jpl.nasa.gov/.
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- Tong Lee, Michael J. McPhaden. Increasing intensity of El Niño in the central-equatorial Pacific. Geophysical Research Letters, 2010; 37 (14): L14603 DOI:10.1029/2010GL044007
Southern Right whale off the coast of Hermanus; South Africa. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the marine food chain and sustains diverse assemblages of species ranging from tiny zooplankton to large marine mammals, seabirds, fish and certain whales. (Credit: iStockphoto)
ScienceDaily (July 28, 2010) — A new article published in the 29 July issue of the journal Naturereveals for the first time that microscopic marine algae known as “phytoplankton” have been declining globally over the 20th century. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the marine food chain and sustains diverse assemblages of species ranging from tiny zooplankton to large marine mammals, seabirds, and fish. Says lead author Daniel Boyce, “Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run. A decline of phytoplankton affects everything up the food chain, including humans.”
The goal of the three-year analysis was to resolve one of the most pressing issues in oceanography, namely to answer the seemingly simple question of whether the ocean is becoming more (or less) „green’ with algae. Previous analyses had been limited to more recent satellite data (consistently available since 1997) and have yielded variable results. To extend the record into the past, the authors analysed a unique compilation of historical measurements of ocean transparency going back to the very beginning of quantitative oceanography in the late 1800s, and combined these with additional samples of phytoplankton pigment (chlorophyll) from ocean-going research vessels. The end result was a database of just under half a million observations which enabled the scientists to estimate phytoplankton trends over the entire globe going back to the year 1899.Using an unprecedented collection of historical and recent oceanographic data, a team from Canada’s Dalhousie University documented phytoplankton declines of about 1% of the global average per year. This trend is particularly well documented in the Northern Hemisphere and after 1950, and would translate into a decline of approximately 40% since 1950. The scientists found that long-term phytoplankton declines were negatively correlated with rising sea surface temperatures and changing oceanographic conditions.
The scientists report that most phytoplankton declines occurred in polar and tropical regions and in the open oceans where most phytoplankton production occurs. Rising sea surface temperatures were negatively correlated with phytoplankton growth over most of the globe, especially close to the equator. Phytoplankton need both sunlight and nutrients to grow; warm oceans are strongly stratified, which limits the amount of nutrients that are delivered from deeper waters to the surface ocean. Rising temperatures may contribute to making the tropical oceans even more stratified, leading to increasing nutrient limitation and phytoplankton declines. The scientists also found that large-scale climate fluctuations, such as the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), affect phytoplankton on a year-to-year basis, by changing short-term oceanographic conditions.
The findings contribute to a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that global warming is altering the fundamentals of marine ecosystems. Says co-author Marlon Lewis, “Climate-driven phytoplankton declines are another important dimension of global change in the oceans, which are already stressed by the effects of fishing and pollution. Better observational tools and scientific understanding are needed to enable accurate forecasts of the future health of the ocean.” Explains co-author Boris Worm, “Phytoplankton are a critical part of our planetary life support system. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and ultimately support all of our fisheries. An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently, and this has to be accounted for in our management efforts.”
Source: Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100729091501.htm
The archetypal divergent branching pattern of the Pacific elkhorn closely resembles that of the Atlantic elkhorn coral — Acropora palmata. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr Maria Beger)
ScienceDaily (July 29, 2010) —
An Australian scientist has discovered what could be the world’s rarest coral in the remote North Pacific Ocean.
The unique Pacific elkhorn coral was found while conducting underwater surveys of Arno atoll in the Marshall Islands, by coral researcher Dr Zoe Richards of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS).
The coral bears a close physical resemblance to the critically endangered and fast-vanishing elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) of the Atlantic Ocean, but genetic analysis has shown it to be a different species.
“When I first saw it, I was absolutely stunned. The huge colonies — five metres across and nearly two metres high with branches like an elk’s antlers — were like nothing I’d seen before in the Pacific Ocean,” Richards recounts.
“So far I have only found this new population of coral to occur along a small stretch of reef at a single atoll in the Marshalls group,” Richards explains. “It grows in relatively shallow water along the exposed reef front and, so far, fewer than 200 colonies are known from that small area.”
“The Pacific elkhorn coral has regular divergent blade-like branches that radiate out from single or multiple large central stalks. Its colonies are by far the largest of all the Acropora colonies observed at Arno Atoll, indicating that these are relatively old,” she adds.
Whether the Pacific elkhorn is an entirely new species or not is subject to scientific debate, because Richards has uncovered that over a century ago, in 1898, a scientist called Gardiner described a coral from the island of Rotuma, near Fiji in the South Pacific whose description fits that of the Pacific elkhorn. “Unfortunately at this stage, we do not have any genetic material of A. rotumana to confirm whether or not it is the same species as the Pacific Elkhorn.”
This finding is of a population of elkhorn coral in the Pacific is of particular scientific interest because it represents one morphological extreme in Acropora, the dominant genus of reef-building corals, the researchers say.
Genetic analysis of the new coral found that its closest relative is Acropora abrotanoides. Richards considers it possible that A. abrotanoides, the 19th century Fijian coral and the new Pacific elkhorn could turn out to be variants of the same species — but says there aren’t enough data to confirm this, at this point.
The uncertainty surrounding the taxonomic status of the Pacific elkhorn poses a conservation dilemma. To be given threatened species status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more needs to be known about the coral, its population size and it relationships to other coral species.
“Currently the Pacific elkhorn would be rated as ‘data deficient’, meaning there isn’t enough information to determine whether it is threatened, vulnerable or critically endangered,” she explains. This means that the Pacific elkhorn would join 141 other coral species on the IUCN list whose status is uncertain.
However the status of its Atlantic relative, A. palmata is much more certain: regarded by most marine researchers as the outstanding symbol of the plight of Caribbean corals, it is rated as critically endangered after vanishing from most of its Caribbean reef habitat in recent decades.
Richards says that the current IUCN definitions are unhelpful in terms of the conservation of many rare and newly described corals such as the Pacific elkhorn, adding it is likely that many of the corals classified as ‘data deficient’ are actually at risk of extinction.
“When Zoe showed me pictures of the Pacific elkhorn, I was shocked,” says leading coral geneticist Professor David Miller of CoECRS and James Cook University.
“The colonies look just like the critically endangered Caribbean species A. palmata, one of the most distinctive of all corals. The fact that these colonies might represent a species that has not been seen for over a hundred years (A. rotumana) says something about how much we know about the remote reefs of North Pacific.
“And the fact that it and many other corals don’t qualify as at risk under IUCN criteria is very disappointing. The IUCN seems to be too demanding in terms of the criteria for listing, and we urge they should err on the side of caution in cases like this.”
Richards’ discovery is reported in the latest edition of the journal Systematics and Biodiversity.
Contaminación en las playas de Culebra
Denuncian que el ciudadano Víctor García Barahona compró una finca y bloqueó el acceso a un área de Playa Flamenco y ha realizado construcciones no sustentables que llenan de sedimento las aguas
Por Cristina del Mar Quiles/Inter News Service
Culebra- La organización ambientalista Corallations reiteró hoy su denuncia del bloqueo al acceso en el área del muellecito en Playa Flamenco, y la continua contaminación de las aguas costeras como consecuencia de construcciones en el área.
Desde el 2005, diversas organizaciones ambientales y comunitarias de Culebra han denunciado que desde que Víctor García Barahona, dueño de una finca cercana en Culebra, compró terrenos aledaños al muellecito, ese mismo año cerró el camino que da acceso a esa parte de la Playa Flamenco y al Punto de Observación, colocando rejas, paredes en cemento y una torre que alegó era para observar aves.
Las construcciones tuvieron que ser eliminadas por orden del Municipio, pero luego consiguió permisos del Servicio de Pesca y Vida Silvestre de Estados Unidos para reforestar el área con árboles en peligro de extinción, lo que también ha significado la obstrucción del acceso.
Mary Ann Lucking, directora de organización Corallations, envió a la agencia Inter News Service imágenes de tres carreteras, presuntamente construidas ilegalmente por García Barahona y sin ninguna planificación.
Una de esas carreteras pasa por uno de los bosques de Culebra y las otras dos por desembocaduras de ríos.
Los caminos han creado erosión en la costa y descargan toneladas de sedimentos al agua, afectando lo que es un hábitat crítico para corales amenazados, especies endémicas de plantas y animales terrestres en peligro de extinción, denunció Lucking.
Lucking también denunció que González Barahona privatizó el área de picnic y el estacionamiento, que han sido tradicionalmente usadas por niños que participan en campamentos, personas con impedimentos y ancianos como acceso fácil a la costa.
“Aquí él ha eliminado los árboles que dan sombra, plantó uvas playeras y ejemplares de otras especies en peligro de extinción de más de 6 pies de altura que bloquean y privatizan el acceso”, manifestó a INS la ambientalista.
Lucking sentenció que el daño hecho al área es irreparable.
Entrevistada por Inter News Service, la bióloga marina María Vega Rodríguez, calificó la situación en Culebra como una de grave impacto para los ecosistemas que allí se desarrollan.
“La sedimentación es detrimental para los ecosistemas marinos. Los corales viven en unos rangos específicos de temperatura y luz, y una variación significativa a estas condiciones puede significar su muerte”, advirtió.
Vega Rodríguez recordó que Playa Flamenco era evaluada para recibir la Bandera Azul como una de las playas más bellas del mundo y esta situación podría significar la pérdida de la distinción.
Currently, a massive oil spill has been covering a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico’s waters and coastlines from Louisiana to Florida. This spill is the result of a massive explosion that occurred on a British Petroleum (BP) drilling rig in the Northern Gulf on April 20, 2010 and was followed by a fire that lasted until April 21, 2010.
Thousands of barrels of oil are being introduced to the Gulf’s waters on a daily basis. This has been classified as the most devastating environmental event in recent US history, and it is three times the magnitude of the Exxon Valdez oil spill at Alaska.
Thus, everywhere in the US, people are constantly wondering: what’s going to happen now? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is still a big unknown and will probably remain like this for quite some time. More research on the environmental impacts of this event is needed.
The intention of this article is to give you some insight on some of the information that has been circulating in the web. As you glance through it, you may be able to formulate your own conclusions. Hopefully, this event will teach us many lessons specially on the viability of using alternative energy sources, oil industry regulations, and/or effective remediation strategies & management of current damages to the affected marine ecosystems.
Note: This article will be updated regularly with new information.
New info.: To this moment, the oil spill has been capped. Although, scientists are still wondering how profound will the environmental damages will be.
Actualmente, un masivo derrame de petróleo ha estado cubriendo la mayoría de las aguas y las costas desde Louisiana hasta Florida. Este derrame es el resultado de una explosión que se produjo en la base de la plataforma de perforación en el norte del Golfo propiedad de British Petreolium (BP) y que ocurrió el 20 de abril de 2010.
Diariamente miles de barriles de petróleo están siendo introducidos a las aguas del Golfo de México. Sin lugar a dudas, este evento ha sido clasificado como el desastre ambiental de mayor magnitud en la historia mas reciente de los EE.UU., tres veces mas desastroso en magnitud que el pasado derrame de petreoleo, Exxon Valdez en Alaska.
En todas partes la gente ha estado preguntandose, ¿qué va a pasar ahora? Desafortunadamente, la respuesta a esta pregunta sigue siendo desconocida y probablemente seguirá así durante bastante tiempo. Mas investigación en cuanto al impacto ambiental de este derrame es necesaria.
La intención de este artículo es proveerles información (de la que se ha circulado por la red) para que según navegue por la misma, usted pueda llegar a sus propias conclusiones. Espero que este evento nos enseñe algunas lecciones especialmente en cuanto a la regulaciones sobre las industrias del petróleo, las diferentes formas de establecer fuentes alternativas de energía, y / o el cómo formular y manejar eficientemente estrategias de mitigación para contrarrestar los daños provocados a los ecosistemas marinos afectados por este derrame.
Nota: Este artículo se actualizará regularmente con nueva información.
For more information:
Marejada, is the new marine bulletin of the Sea Grant program of the University of Puerto Rico (PSGUPR). It is being published twice a year. It’s objective it to offer a volume of educational information directed to promote the programs mission: which is to watch for the sustainable development of the coastal and marine resources of the Archipelago of Puerto Rico and of the Caribbean Sea.
Marejada is published by the Communications department of the Sea Grant program of the University of Puerto Rico under the subsidy No. NA06OAR4170016 of the Department of Commerce U.S. and the Atmospheric and National Administration (NOAA).
In this edition, you will find valuable information about beach managements in Puerto Rico, interviews with our colleague and specialist in coral reefs ecology, Edwin Hernandez, and with Debbie Cedeno (specialist in harmful algal blooms in La Parguera, Puerto Rico), as well as a recognition to the students (including me) who presented during the 33rd Scientific Conference of the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean, among other features.
I apologize for the inconveniences, but Marejada is only published in Spanish. If wanted, you can download a copy at: http://www.seagrantpr.org/catalog/publications/marejada.html