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Sunscreen and Its Effects Upon Coral Reefs

A team of international researchers including professor and diver John Fauth from the University of Southern Florida have battled the sun in a study where they measured the devestating effects of a compound found in commercial Sunscreen, upon coral reefs. “The use of oxybenzone-containing products  needs to be seriously deliberated in islands and areas where coral reef conservation is a critical issue,” Downs said. “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers. Everyone wants to build coral nurseries for reef restoration, but this will achieve little if the factors that originally killed off the reef remain or intensify in the environment.”  john-fauth2-548x365Laboratory experiments that exposed coral larvae and cells to increased saturated levels of oxybenzone and conclude both genetic and physical damage was done to both. Larvae exposed to levels similar to those detected in samples collected around reefs were were trapped in their own skeletons, unable to disperse into the water column. The DNA of coral cells was also inhibited or completely destroyed by Oxybenzone causing an an increase in bleaching frequency in seven different types of coral. The team concluded that: “Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation, and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.” And that instead of lathering up the lotion we should “Wear rash guards or scuba wetsuits and skip all the hygienic products when you go diving,” added Fauth. “If we could do it for a week at a time, people can certainly forgo it for a few hours to help protect these reefs for our children and their children to see.” Read the abstract and purchase the paper here!… More:

Rare Azooxanthellate Stony Corals in Japan: Part 1

The selection of non-photosynthetic stony corals at your average fish store is not typically a very diverse lot. You may find a species or two of
Tubastraea; if you’re lucky, you may spy a Dendrophyllia or Rhizopsammia. And if that shop really brings in the rare stuff, you may catch a glimpse of a Rhizotrochus typus or Petrophyllia rediviva. But beyond that, there is not much else. More:

Assessing the Esthetic Beauty of Coral Reefs

As active owners of captive reef environments we naturally appeal to the brightest coral, or most visually stunning morphologies of imported specimens, but for the first time ever scientists from San Diego State University have created a computation that will measure the esthetic “beauty” of wild coral reefs. The system developed was created through a cross-discipline model that involved mathematicians, biologists, and art historians to develop a computer model that assess photographic images of coral reefs. Researchers compiled a list of 109 visual features that the program uses to asses things like size, color intensity, and distribution of corals to determine whether or not a reef ecosystem is healthy. “Our results suggest that our perception of aesthetics is well-aligned with healthy, thriving ecosystems,” said Andreas Haas, an SDSU postdoctoral scholar and primary researcher of the study. 151110082106_1_900x600 This method of assessment was developed on the basis that our natural ability to observe and perceive a healthy environment is not merely subjective to esthetic “beauty.” The paper, ‘Can we measure beauty? Computational evaluation of coral reef aesthetics,’ was published November 10th, 2015 in the open access scientific journal “By quantifying aesthetic features of coral reef systems, this method provides a cost effective tool that also targets one of the most important socioeconomic values of coral reefs — their natural beauty,” Haas said. The model created provides an easier, and possibly less expensive option, for researchers assessing the health of coral reefs, and that will hopefully reduce the amount of time it takes for assessment. Read the entire publication here! 


Balanced Diet Aids in Bleaching Recovery

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School research team published a recent study showing the importance of a balanced diet while corals are recovering from thermal stress. The UM Rosenstiel School research team published a study back in 2015 that highlighted the critically endangered Staghorn coral and how it benefits from supplemental nutrition to withstand thermal stress, a first and only study to study a three-way interaction between the two types of nutrient enrichment and thermal stress on coral health. This study has expanded on those findings and provides given more data for thermal stress models. “We found that the coral’s resilience to thermal stress totally depends on the kind of inorganic enrichment — if it’s ‘balanced’ or not,” said Erica Towle, an alumna of the UM Rosenstiel School. Researchers tested two nutrient rich and thermally induced scenarios with Turbinaria reniformis, a calcium based coral. 151001153933_1_900x600Collected from the Red Sea specimens were placed into separate tanks and were subjected to either a nitrogen rich environment, or a nitrogen and phosphorus based environment. Both of which are common scenarios for reefs with close proximity to industrial and residential runoff. While a nitrogen rich environment coupled with zooplankton feeding made heat related bleaching events worse, an environment right in nitrogen while in combination with extra phosphorus and zooplankton provide the coral nutrient-based resilience to bleaching. “Excess nutrients from land sources and thermal stress will likely occur in concert in the future so it’s important to assess them together. Incorporating nutrient levels in thermal bleaching models will likely be very important for coral reef managers in the future as ocean waters warm.” concludes Erica Towle, an alumna of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School. Read more here!… More:

4 New Deep Cold Water Reefs Discovered in the Atlantic

Researchers from Plymouth, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) have recently confirmed 4 new reefs located in the Atlantic Ocean. Developed at Plymouth University researchers used a mathematical process to identify the reefs, and then sent unmanned robotic rovers to explore the areas in waters just West of Ireland.  Plead researcher Dr Kerry Howell, Associate Professor in the School of Marine Science and Engineering at Plymouth University, said: “We’re delighted with these results. It means we can now produce maps of where coral is likely to be for large areas of the deep-sea that we have not yet visited, and use them to identify high value ecological areas that might need protection from damaging activities.”151013111956_1_900x600 “The models work by looking at where we know deep-water coral reefs are found, identifying what is favourable environment for the corals, for example their favourite depths, and then looking for areas with the same or similar conditions,” added Dr Anthony Grehan, from NUI Galway. “If conditions are very similar then there is a high likelihood we will find corals.” The research team spent a total of two frigid weeks aboard the RV Celtic Explorer using its underwater robot, Holland I, to explore areas predicted to house reef inhabitants. While on the exhibition the team was able to locate four out of four predicted reef sites, which solidified the matrix of their models. The findings and predictive models would not have been possible without the use of high resolution “multibeam” sonar maps coupled with the Irish National Seabed Survey high resolution bathymetric charts. Dr Howell concludes: “Our cold water coral reef models are now good enough to be used to better target areas that have not previously been explored, and this can greatly reduce the cost of future survey work.” Read more here!… More:

Reef Threads Podcast #252

This formulation contains 6% oxybenzone. Keep it out of the reefs.

This week it’s sunscreen and reefs and making a mess in your aquarium with sand. Listen to the Evangelist provide some in-depth information about sunscreen ingredients, where they come from, and what to look for, all based on a study that indicates active ingredient oxybenzone is poisonous to corals at very low doses. We also talk about the joys of creating a dust storm in your aquarium when adding sand. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sponsor: Rod’s Food
Rod’s Food website

Oxybenzone in sunscreen
Wash your hands before putting them in your reef tank, Leonard Ho, Advanced Aquarist

Sand is everywhere
Added sand after water, I’m an idiot, Splix, Reef Central


Sicce HyperKoral & Calanus 

Sicce HyperKoral I recently wrote about Sicce’s new HyperReef three-stage dosing system. There is a second part to this system; it consists of two products formulated to feed corals and other reef organisms directly through the water column. … More:

Epizoanthus, and the Hermit Crabs that love them

Epizoanthus cf paguriphilus. Credit: Aqua Takeshima

Epizoanthus cf paguriphilus. Credit: Aqua Takeshima

 One of the most diverse groups of zoantharian corals is also one of the least known amongst aquarists. Epizoanthus is composed of dozens of species, ranging from shallow waters to habitats hundreds of meters deep, from tropical coral reefs to cold temperate climes, and they can be found in nearly every major marine body of water. 
Credit: Aqua Takeshima

More aquarium specimens. Credit: Aqua Takeshima

 Most taxa are a translucent or opaque white, with some of the more opulent species adorned in pulchritudinous hues of brown and black. So, no, these are not the type of corals which will ever be fragged, given a silly trade name and sold for some exorbitant amount of money.… More: is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.