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Fisher Island Corals & The Saga of The Deep Dredge (Part 1 of 3)

Aerial view of Biscayne Bay, Government Cut, and Fisher Island encircled in deep dredge silt Over the past eighteen months, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Deep Dredge of PortMiami has continuously released dirty water throughout Biscayne Bay and onto our surrounding reefs. The dredging will continue until at least August 2015. Over the course of the Dredge we have observed levels of suspended silt far beyond what is environmentally acceptable or healthy in a coral reef environment, and in areas well outside the area where the Army Corps predicted. One of Coral Morphologic’s biggest concerns during the Deep Dredge has been the well-being of the hybrid fused-staghorn coral (Acropora prolifera) colonizing the Fisher Island side of Government Cut. This coral is what kickstarted our interest in documenting the extent of coral colonization within Miami’s coastal waterways, and was the subject of Colin’s 2011 TEDxMIA talk. The concerns we expressed to the State of Florida about this coral is ultimately what led them to provide us with permits to rescue corals from the dredging far offshore… but not for the hybrid itself (or any other corals on Fisher Island). [embedded content] Colin’s 2011 TEDxMIA talk on Hybrid Acropora living within Miami city limits In addition to this highly unusual hybrid Acropora coral living within the shipping channel, we have found a variety of other Acroporid corals living on the seawalls of Fisher Island. There are at least three colonies of federally-protected Elkhorn corals (Acropora palmata) and 2 different morphotypes of hybrid Acropora prolifera. As far as we know, Coral Morphologic are the only researchers documenting these critically important corals growing along man-made shorelines in Florida. Typically, elkhorn corals are found miles offshore on the outer reef crest where they receive clean water and strong water movement. Elkhorn corals were once the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean, and the most effective coral species at dissipating hurricane storm surges for coastal communities. But since the early 1980’s more than 95% of the populations across the region have succumbed to highly infectious diseases. One such disease, white pox, has even been proven to be a human gut pathogen transmitted to the elkhorn coral via human waste from leaky septic tanks and offshore piping of sewage. In fact, white pox is the first known pathogen to be transmitted from a human to a marine invertebrate species. Over the past 5 years we have watched as these colonies of elkhorn coral wax and wane. Some years they will show remarkable growth, while another year they lose multiple sub-colony branches to white pox. However, over the past year (during the Deep Dredge), we have observed a precipitously steep decline in their health. We now feel that their survival is endangered enough by the continuing dredge silt that their plight needs to made public, and that their long-term well-being is ensured. [embedded content] Fisher Island Elkhorn Coral pre-dredge/ mid-dredge health survey It should be noted that the Virginia Key Wastewater Treatment Plant sits just ½ mile (760 m) away across Norris Cut… putting these corals within potential reach of air or waterborne contamination. Furthermore, these elkhorn corals are living on the outside of the Fisher Island marina which houses a multitude of luxury yachts, along with the occasional sewage, petroleum, or chemical spill. Despite it being less than a square kilometer in size, luxurious Fisher Island features a 9-hole golf course and lush landscaping indicative of frequent fertilizer use and runoff. The likelihood of the Federally-protected elkhorn coral self-recruiting and growing to adult size in such a manmade environment defies conventional logic when taking all these factors into consideration. Therefore, these particular elkhorn corals on Fisher Island could be invaluable to the scientific understanding of the adaptability, resilience, and restoration potential of such a keystone coral species. Furthermore, the elkhorn corals of Fisher Island are surviving in an extremely shallow sub-tidal zone where they are subject to direct sunlight and intense UV radiation. At one point in time these colonies were up to 1.5 meters in diameter. What appears now to be multiple independent branches of living elkhorn coral are all that remain of a previously contiguous mother colony. Partial die-off of coral colonies presents a dilemma for coral researchers, as it can create the illusion of multiple smaller colonies, when actually they are all clones of each other. One upside to having discontiguous colony for research is that a single branch can be removed for transplantation without risking the rest of the colony to a subsequent infection. In the past year, both of the elkhorn colonies living on the Norris Cut side of Fisher Island have demonstrated significant mortality, and evidence of white pox. Both colonies have undergone approximately 60-70% mortality since the dredging began, but appear to have stabilized during the previous cooler months. Without direct intervention we are concerned that these elkhorn colonies may not survive through summer 2015. More distressing is the clear evidence of dredge silt that has lethally smothered neighboring brain and star corals that were simply rested horizontally onto boulders when transplanted there by Army Corps subcontractors. Upon trying to fan off the silt that was choking these corals, we noticed that many were not even cemented in place as required. Rather, they were simply placed on the flat upper surfaces of the seawall boulders and left to their own devices. Even a small storm (let along a hurricane) can easily flip these unattached corals off their perches and upside down in the sediment. Whoever was paid to transplant these corals did a completely negligent job, and without any regard for the future success and settlement of the corals. An unacceptable number of these corals have already died from dredge sediment stress or simply from being dislodged from their perches. Some accountability is required for the deaths of these corals. [embedded content] Fisher Island silt-smothered coral survey Read more about our proposed solution to ensure the future survival of Fisher Island’s unique Acropora corals in Part 2. Tags: Coral Morphologic, Fisher Island, Miami This entry was posted on Thursday, May 21st, 2015 at 4:55 pm and is filed under Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. 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Diving Through Swaying Gorgonians in Curacao

ABOUT Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last ten years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest. Pages

Write-Up Wednesday: Top-Down Viewers

I’ve got a strong hunch that you setup a saltwater tank to stock it with beautiful inhabitants for your viewing pleasure. I’m also got a strong hunch that 99% of the time, you view those inhabitants from the side -i.e. through your tank’s side panels. I’ll make one more hypothesis – as your corals start growing, you really, really would like to take some great photos of them.

Here’s some insider information for you – corals always look much better when viewed from the top down. Therefore, if you want some great photos of your corals, try taking them from above. But how do you do that without getting your camera wet?

The answer: the top-down viewer for cameras

Avast Marine Work’s Top-Down Porthole

Top-down viewers that are built for cameras give you an easy and safe way to keep your camera dry, while giving you access to stunning top-down shots. The way they work is simple. A water proof sleeve goes around your camera’s lens. The top-down viewer is secured to the camera’s lens through set screws and the viewer is rotated to zoom in or out to get closer to the subject matter. Note that the focus ring isn’t accessible when the viewer is attached to the camera so auto focus has to be enabled.

While most top-down viewers are meant for cameras with detachable lenses, there are versions available for smart phones like Avast Marine Work’s Smartphone Top-Down Porthole

If you’re using a DSLR/SLR camera or a smart phone, a top-down viewer gives you stunning photos of a completely new way to view your livestock. Corals display different colors and clams especially can look dramatically different when viewed from the top down.

Compare these photos of an acan colony.  The side photo shows mostly red and a hint of orange/yellow:

Here’s the same colony viewed from the top. Notice how the orange/yellow band jumps out in this photo. Plus the coral now looks more orange vs. deep red:

Checkout this photo of a clam taken from the side:

Here’s a top down photo of the same clam:

It looks like a completely different clam, yet it is the same specimen.

Top-down viewing of your tank opens up a whole new world that makes for some great eye candy. And for your FOWLR types, don’t worry, even your fish look different when viewed from the top-down.

(Special thanks to Josh at Murfreesboro Aquatics for the photos)

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Reef Threads Podcast #229


One of the animals in Marius Schudel’s Irish rockpool aquarium.

Postmodern Jukebox support for Gary leads off a podcast packed with reef information including clown triggerfish mariculture, Quality Marine’s fish-information QR codes, lionfish eating, Marius Schudel’s (he’s a guy!) Irish rockpool aquarium, and anti-aging nematocysts. 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
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Prepping lionfish
Three videos about how to prepare lionfish for eating:
Video 1
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Video 3

Irish rockpool aquarium
Marius Schudel’s rockpool aquarium
Video of Marius Schudel’s Irish rockpool aquarium

Anti-aging nematocysts
Sea Anemone Delivery of Collagen and γ-PGA for Anti-Aging Benefits, Tal, Danon, Toren, Khaiat, Cosmetics and Toiletries magazine.

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Video: A Timelapse Encounter… With LPS Corals

[embedded content] OK, so it’s been a little quieter than usual on the blog over the last few weeks, and we can now reveal why. In short, we’ve been busy behind the scenes creating this short video which we hope will be the first in a series of similar productions. In this introductory piece, we get ‘up close and personal’ with a range of LPS corals currently residing in our Black Tank, employing some timelapse macro and pure fluorescence imagery to ‘shed light’ on some of their otherwise hidden habits. Don’t forget to select full 1080HD resolution to see the fine detail! As said, we hope to continue the series as time permits and expand to focus on different groups of invertebrates… and as ever, we’ll certainly be looking to keep pushing the envelope in reef imagery by investing in new equipment and software for future offerings.

Rock Flower Anemone Collection! CRAZY HD

My Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/coralfish12g My Instagram Page: https://instagram.com/coralfish12g/ Frost Nguyen AznNutty's SaltwaterConnections SaltwaterConnections@hotmail.com These are beautiful rock flower anemones. Frost Nguyen had these at his vendor booth at the CMAS Frag Swap in Chicago.

Without Fish, Sponges Smother Caribbean Corals

Credit: Joseph Pawlik, UNCWAs if corals didn’t have enough to contend with in nuisance seaweeds, another aggressive neighbour is moving in. Like seaweeds, sponges use an arsenal of toxins, mucus, shading, and smothering to kill nearby coral colonies and then, to add insult to injury, go ahead and grow on their skeletons. Furthermore, a recent survey of coral reefs across the Caribbean has shown that overfishing removes the predators of sponges, greatly increasing the threat to an already weakened population of corals. Headed by Dr. Joseph Pawlik at UNC Wilmington, the research team surveyed reefs from 12 countries across the Caribbean, where the combined effects of warming seawater temperatures, storms, and diseases have already decimated coral populations

Review: Elos OsmoController Digital

Dealing with evaporation from a reef tank can be a real chore if you haven’t got a robust system in place and there’s also a pretty high element of risk involved if your chosen system isn’t up to scratch. For a start, it could fail to keep-up with demand (in which case a low water level could expose equipment and lead to a system failure), or at the other end of the scale, overfilling could make your tank literally ‘runneth-over’ (causing untold damage and recrimination). In either case your Salinity is also going to be ‘all over the place’ too, stressing livestock, possibly to death…. in short this is one area where cutting-costs can come back and ‘bite you on the bum’! Having started-off with the ‘religiously-trickling-in-a-jug-of-RO-every-day’ method back in the day, we’ve since been through a few different systems, each progressing in complexity. Our second system was a simple peri-pump on a timer which delivered Kalkwasser during the night (and which worked fine but couldn’t cope with seasonal fluctuations very well) and next we experimented with float switches… briefly

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