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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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Reef Threads Podcast #227


Look for Momma.

This week we play What’s on the Home Page, in which we visit a bunch of websites and see what they have to offer. 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

What’s on the Home Page links
Live Aquaria’s Reef Care resource

WikiHow’s Reduce Aquarium Maintenance

Bulk Reef Supply

Marine Depot

Salty Supply

Foster & Smith Pet Education

Premium Aquatics

ORA

Your email:

 

Why Kids Shouldn’t Keep Nemo with a Host Anemone

A curious clownfish peers through the tentacles of an anemoneAsk any group of young children to name their favorite saltwater fish, and chances are nearly all of them will reply “the clownfish.” Of course, to most kids, “clownfish” is synonymous with “Nemo,” so the species they have in mind is Amphiprion ocellaris, not one of the other 28 Amphiprion species or the single species in the genus Premnas. In any case, owing to Nemo’s iconic nature, many kids are taken with the idea of keeping him in a home aquarium. And naturally, if they’re going to keep Nemo, then his host anemone needs to be part of the package, as well. Trouble is, as every experienced hobbyist knows, while A. ocellaris can be a good choice for kids’ tanks (with appropriate adult supervision and assistance, of course), anemones most decidedly are not kid-tank-friendly. Heck, most aren’t even adult-tank-friendly.So how can parents persuade eager kids that keeping Nemo and his anemone together is a bad idea? Here are some talking points that might help make the case: Nemo will be perfectly happy without an anemone Kids, more so than adults, tend to anthropomorphize animals—which, in this case, is perfectly understandable since Nemo actually talks and exhibits other human-like attributes in the cartoon. So, it’s only normal for them to assume a clownfish will be “lonely” or “afraid” without a host anemone in the tank

Marine Aquarium Photography: The Basics of Exposure

Reef tanks can be quite challenging to shootAt its core, the reef aquarium hobby is a pursuit of aesthetics. We seek out visually appealing fish and corals and look for inspiration in other aquarists’ tanks. More and more reef hobbyists want to share their hobby with others online, and that’s when things fall apart. It is not that there’s a problem with the reef tank, but that the photo taken doesn’t do the real thing any justice. Sometimes, the photo just comes out with the colors wrong or the exposure messed up so the bright areas are just lost in overexposed blotches. There have been times when people show me pictures of coral they found online and I have to explain to them that in real life, it will not look like that because most of the aesthetics that grabbed their attention in the first place were visual artifacts in the taking of the photo that exaggerated the color. Most of the time, this is unintentional on the part of the photographer.Our reef tanks happen to be among the most challenging subjects to shoot. Chief among these challenges is the fact that our aquariums are dark subjects.

6 Steps to Stable pH in a Saltwater System

Like other water parameters in your marine aquarium, stability is also important with pHStability of water parameters is essential to success with marine aquariums, especially when it comes to keeping sensitive invertebrates. Among the various parameters that hobbyists often struggle to maintain at an appropriate level is pH, essentially a measure of how acidic/basic the water is. While the ideal target for pH in a marine aquarium is somewhere in the range of 8.2 to 8.4, it’s more important to maintain a stable pH, even if it’s slightly outside this range, than to constantly chase a particular value within the range. The challenge is, owing to various natural processes going on in the tank, the pH in a closed aquarium system usually drifts downward (there are exceptions, of course), so the hobbyist must take certain steps to counteract this trend. Here are six of them:1) Perform regular partial water changes Regular Saltwater Smarts visitors must be pretty tired of hearing this by now—as I recommend water changes for virtually anything that ails a saltwater system. But the truth is, nothing promotes stability of parameters, pH included, better than routine partial water changes. Every time you replace old salt water with new, you’re not only removing dissolved pollutants and replacing components vital to the health and growth of your livestock, but you’re also replacing compounds that buffer the water against shifting pH (carbonates and bicarbonates)

Dragons Breath Macro Tree – See it to Believe it!

My FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/coralfish12g In this CoralFish12g video I highlight Pedro's 34g Solana cube tank. It is custom drilled and has a custom sump. The filtration is a fitersock and cermedia bio balls along with a Reef Octopus bh50 skimmer. Light is dual t5 ho with Trulumen blue led strip. He will be upgrading lighting soon. His channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pnavarro170

Reef Threads Podcast #222


A scene from Peter Hyne’s 1,300-gal. reef aquarium.

We’re back for another go at this reef-aquarium hobby. This week’s subjects include Peter Hyne’s Toronto aquarium, NERAC, Jimmie Yuen’s old-school equipment, and what is an advanced reef keeper. 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

Peter Hyne’s Tank
Peter Hyne’s build thread

Are you advanced?
Does Having SPS make you an advanced reefer?, Marquiseo, Reef2Reef

Reef Threads Podcast #221


Inexpensive corals don’t deserve second-class care.

It’s podcast time again. In this week’s show we talk about Rod’s Food, water testing, the Port of Miami dredging disaster, Michael Paletta’s article about hobby costs, and Christine’s milk-filter-sock experiments. 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

Port of Miami reef destruction
Despite Protections, Miami Port Project Smothers Coral Reef in Silt, Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times, March 7

Hobby too expensive?
Pros and Cons of the Reef Aquarium Hobby Being So Expensive, Michael Paletta, Reef Builders

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