Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

February 13, 2019 by  
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A rehabilitation program for coral reef species has proven to be successful for an ongoing project to combat a massive disease spreading throughout the Cayman’s pillar coral species, according to the Department of the Environment in the Cayman Islands. The rapidly spreading disease, called “white band disease”, was first noticed on a famous dive site called the Killer Pillars in February 2018. It has ravaged pillar coral throughout the Caribbean and destroyed almost 90 percent of the species along the Florida coast. Scientists in the Cayman Islands removed diseased coral from the reef and selected healthy fragments to grow in a nursery. They later planted healthy coral back onto the reef, in hopes the fragments became resilient enough to resist the disease and build back the reef. Though the project is still an experiment, the results look promising thus far and can have wide implications on how other islands respond to this disease throughout the region. The Caribbean already lost 80 percent of all coral reefs Throughout the world, coral reefs are seriously vulnerable and rapidly dying. Reefs are thought to host the most biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world– even more than a rainforest . Despite their importance, reefs are critically vulnerable to small changes in the environment. Slight increases in ocean temperature cause widespread die-off throughout Caribbean and Pacific reefs. Additional threats include pollution, over fishing and run-off of nitrogen from farms that fertilize algae and causes it to smother reefs. Abandoned fishing gear also wreaks havoc on reefs and creates an opportunity for disease. “Fishing line not only causes coral tissue injuries and skeleton damage, but also provides an additional surface for potential pathogens to colonize, increasing their capacity to infect wounds caused by entangled fishing line,” says Dr. Joleah Lamb from the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of all marine species and sustain the fishing industry. They are paramount to Caribbean economies and are an important defense for small islands and coastal communities during hurricanes . Evidence shows their structures reduce damaging wave energy by nearly 97 percent . Also, reefs attract dive tourists and help build beaches by breaking down into sand. Experiments such as the one in the Cayman Islands are critically important for ensuring the reefs that do remain, are healthy and functioning. How does the project in the Cayman Islands work? Along with marine scientists from the U.K. and U.S., coral experts from the Department of the Environment removed diseased coral from the reef in order to stem the alarming spread of the disease. They then cut segments of healthy coral to regrow in nurseries. Coral nurseries, a growing trend in coral restoration, are structures constructed in clean, sandy sections of the ocean floor. Scientists attach healthy coral fragments to the simple structures, often made out of PVC pipe, and monitor them as they grow in a safe environment. Once the corals are strong, healthy and considerably larger in size than the original fragments, the scientists plant them back onto the original reef or select new sites to start a reef. Related: Using nature to build resilient communities Coral nurseries are popping up around the Caribbean Impressively, 100 percent of the coral fragments in the Department of Environment’s nursery survived. Coral nurseries are a restoration technique popular throughout the Caribbean basin, including Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, the Virgin Islands and many restoration and research laboratories in Florida. Disease is still a threat After their successful growth in the nursery, 81 percent of the fragments re-planted were still alive after five months. This is a considerable success rate given the threats these corals face. However, 23 percent of the planted fragments also showed signs of the relentless “white band disease” (Acroporid white syndrome). Researchers have not given up hope and recognize that if kept contained, disease can be a natural part of ecosystems. “We do know that diseases have their seasons, they come and go, they are vigorous for a while and then they die back, and at that point we have to see some kind of coral colony recovery,” Tim Austin, Deputy Director of the Department of Environment, told Cayman 27 News . “We are monitoring it and we are hoping to have a better handle on how this disease progresses.” In addition to techniques such as reducing marine debris, pollution and establishing protected conservation zones around reefs, coral salvage projects are an important technique to ensure that Caribbean’s the remaining corals survive. “If longer-term monitoring results prove equally successful, the salvage, relocation and restoration of actively diseased coral colonies could become an everyday tool in the restoration toolbox of coral reef managers,” the Department of Environment reported . Via Yale 360 Image via Shutterstock

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Can the Caymans save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs?

Strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years made landfall this morning

September 20, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico earlier today as a Category 4 storm . While it had weakened from a Category 5, officials still warned the hurricane is dangerous – forecasters said there could be life-threatening winds blowing for 12 to 24 hours. Governor Ricardo Rossello told the Associated Press, “We have not experienced an event of this magnitude in our modern history.” Maria hit the southeast coast of Puerto Rico this morning with 155 miles per hour (mph) winds, and could destroy power infrastructure and homes, compelling the government to rebuild dozens of communities, according to the Associated Press. Rossello said, as of Tuesday night over 4,400 people and 105 pets were in shelters. That number increased to 11,229 people and 580 pets by 5AM, according to a tweet from the governor. Related: Category 5 Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever When the hurricane is measured by wind speed, Maria ties for the eighth strongest storm in the history of the Atlantic . Hurricanes tend to move north or south of Puerto Rico, so the island often avoids a direct hit. 1932 was the last time a Category 4 hurricane made landfall there, and in 1928, the island experienced the strongest storm to hit it: San Felipe, with 160 mph winds. The Washington Post said Maria had already blown over islands to the east with over 160 mph winds – on the island Guadeloupe, officials attributed the deaths of two people to the hurricane. At least two people were reported missing near the island of Desirade. As of Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane warning was in effect “for the Virgin Islands, the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas, where Maria is expected to bring dangerous wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall .” Via the Boston Globe and The Washington Post Images via NASA/NOAA GOES Project and National Hurricane Center

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Strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years made landfall this morning

Extraordinary living chandelier with algae-filled leaves purifies the air

September 20, 2017 by  
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Lighting design has come a long way. Julian Melchiorri , a London-based designer and engineer, created this extraordinary living chandelier that not only lights up the room, but also actively purifies the air around it. Currently on display at the V&A Museum for London Design Week, the Exhale Chandelier features glass leaves filled with green algae that absorb CO2 and release oxygen. The living chandelier is not only an amazing eco-product that’s beneficial for the environment, but its sophisticated design makes for a beautiful lighting source for any atmosphere. Its modular format allows the chandelier’s green-hued leaves to be configured in a wide range of shapes, adding versatility. The lamp can be used indoors or outdoors – wherever air purification is needed. Related: 13 groundbreaking lighting innovations from NY Design Week Melchiorri is not only a design-engineer, but also a leading biochemical technology researcher. The innovative chandelier design is the result of his many years developing and crafting his unique “artifical leaf’” technology. Working with microbiological life forms, the designer’s bionic-leaf is based on the basic principles of photosynthesis , harnessing the power of converting CO2 into oxygen and integrating it into one very beautiful product. Although the chandelier is a prototype at the moment, the designer envisions integrating his photo-reactive cell technology into future buildings , freeing them of harmful emissions. + Julian Melchiorri + London Design Festival Photography by Mike Chino

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Extraordinary living chandelier with algae-filled leaves purifies the air

Invasive Lionfish Move into Virgin Islands National Park

August 9, 2010 by  
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Image credit: Serge Melki /Flickr Wild boar , kudzu, and cane toads are among the world’s most infamous invasive species—and they’re about to be joined by one more: the lionfish. Native to the Pacific, invasive lionfish in the Caribbean are wreaking havoc o… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Invasive Lionfish Move into Virgin Islands National Park

Obesity, Chemical Exposure Causing Some Girls to Hit Puberty at Age 7, Study Finds

August 9, 2010 by  
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Photo via WLS Channel An eye-opening study profiled in the New York Times reveals that some girls in the United States are hitting puberty at abnormally early ages — sometimes at 7 or 8 years old. There are a number of suspected causes for this potentially dangerous trend, chief among them childhood obesity and exposure to chemicals. This gives us yet another reason to e…

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Obesity, Chemical Exposure Causing Some Girls to Hit Puberty at Age 7, Study Finds

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