New study shows that Florida’s reefs cannot endure a ‘cold snap’ - Scientists detail unprecedented loss of coral reef species during 2010 cold weather event.
A new study led by scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science shows that Florida’s corals dropped in numbers due to the cold conditions.
“It was a major setback,” said Diego Lirman, associate professor at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. “Centuries-old coral colonies were lost in a matter of days.”
The chilly January temperatures caused the most catastrophic loss of corals within the Florida Reef Tract, which spans 160 miles (260 kilometers) from Miami to the Dry Tortugas and is the only living barrier reef in the continental U.S.
Ice-cold Arctic air swept into Florida in early January 2010, plummeting air temperatures to an all-time low of 30°F (1°C) and dropping ocean temperatures to a chilly 51°F (11°C).
“The 2010 cold-water anomaly not only caused widespread coral mortality but also reversed prior resistance and resilience patterns that will take decades to recover,” the study’s authors conclude.
Florida’s reefs are located in a marginal environment at the northernmost limit for coral development. Corals have adapted to a specific temperature range and are typically not found in areas where water temperatures drop below 60°F (16°C).
The paper, titled “Severe 2010 Cold-Water Event Caused Unprecedented Mortality to Corals of the Florida Reef Tract and Reversed Previous Survivorship Patterns,” was supported by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, The Nature Conservancy, and the ARRA program.
- Amanda Mascarelli
Some Chilean sea bass labelled in shops as sustainable are not what they claim to be, researchers have found. In a study published today in Current Biology1, some fish bearing an eco-label were found not to come from the certified fishery; others weren’t Chilean sea bass at all.
Paul Sutherland/National Geographic/Getty Images
Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), marketed as ‘Chilean sea bass’, became popular with consumers for their buttery flavour and tender, flaky texture. The fish live for up to 50 years in the deep, frigid waters surrounding Antarctica, and take 10-20 years to reach maturity, so they are vulnerable to over-fishing.
Catching them “is not like fishing for fish — it’s almost like logging for trees”, says Stephen Palumbi, a marine population biologist at Stanford University in California, who was not involved with the study. “It takes that long for these fish to grow up and be ready for market. That’s why the fish got in trouble.”