78.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesResidents Can Help Declining Coral Reefs

Residents Can Help Declining Coral Reefs

April 3, 2006 – With coral reefs in decline because of disease and last fall's bleaching problem, residents can help eliminate man-made situations that negatively affect corals.
"We can do something about anchoring," said Jeff Miller, V.I. National Park biologist, launching into a list of problems on Monday.
Miller also cited sedimentation, over-fishing and nutrification as issues people can attack. He said that nutrification happens when leaking septic tanks and sewage systems flow into the ocean, and that fertilizers used on hotel landscaping contribute to this problem.
"These are all things that are manageable and bad for the reefs," he said.
Both Miller and Caroline Rogers, a marine ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John, said that while coral disease has been around for some time, 2005 saw an unprecedented territory-wide bleaching event caused by extraordinarily warm water.
Just when the corals began to recover, they were hit by disease.
"We are seeing corals several hundreds of years old dying in a matter of a few weeks," Rogers said.
She said this event hit a wide variety of corals growing as much as 90 feet deep. Even shallow water corals like elkhorn suffered.
"Nobody's seen elkhorn bleach before in the Virgin Islands," she said.
Miller said that both near shore and offshore coral reefs were affected.
Zandy Hillis-Starr, chief of resources management at Buck Island Reef National Monument on St. Croix, said that island's reefs are in even worse shape than St. John's.
"It's not pretty out there," she said.
She said that St. Croix had warmer water for a longer period of time than St. John did.
Both Miller and Rogers said the bleaching was particularly alarming because the deeper corals provide the reef backbone.
Massive corals make up 90 percent of the reefs, Miller said. "And they grow only a millimeter a year," he said, while shallow water elkhorn coral grows extremely fast – several inches per year.
While the bleaching problem hit many areas of the Caribbean, Rogers said water temperatures were particularly warm in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"We had more mortality than the rest of the Caribbean," she said.
Miller said a study showed that Caribbean coral reefs are important to the economy. He said the 2004 study by the World Resources Institute showed that the reefs are responsible for $3.1 billion to $4.6 billion worth of fishing, dive tourism and shoreline protection in the Caribbean.
Rogers said it's not known if the bleached corals will produce the larvae that enable them to reproduce.
Both said it's too early to know what this summer will bring in the way of water temperatures, but they worry about what's ahead for the territory's reefs.
Rogers said USGS and park staff are able to keep such close tabs on the coral because, as scientists, they regularly evaluate areas around the islands.

Back Talk

Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,722FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
April 3, 2006 - With coral reefs in decline because of disease and last fall's bleaching problem, residents can help eliminate man-made situations that negatively affect corals.
"We can do something about anchoring," said Jeff Miller, V.I. National Park biologist, launching into a list of problems on Monday.
Miller also cited sedimentation, over-fishing and nutrification as issues people can attack. He said that nutrification happens when leaking septic tanks and sewage systems flow into the ocean, and that fertilizers used on hotel landscaping contribute to this problem.
"These are all things that are manageable and bad for the reefs," he said.
Both Miller and Caroline Rogers, a marine ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey on St. John, said that while coral disease has been around for some time, 2005 saw an unprecedented territory-wide bleaching event caused by extraordinarily warm water.
Just when the corals began to recover, they were hit by disease.
"We are seeing corals several hundreds of years old dying in a matter of a few weeks," Rogers said.
She said this event hit a wide variety of corals growing as much as 90 feet deep. Even shallow water corals like elkhorn suffered.
"Nobody's seen elkhorn bleach before in the Virgin Islands," she said.
Miller said that both near shore and offshore coral reefs were affected.
Zandy Hillis-Starr, chief of resources management at Buck Island Reef National Monument on St. Croix, said that island's reefs are in even worse shape than St. John's.
"It's not pretty out there," she said.
She said that St. Croix had warmer water for a longer period of time than St. John did.
Both Miller and Rogers said the bleaching was particularly alarming because the deeper corals provide the reef backbone.
Massive corals make up 90 percent of the reefs, Miller said. "And they grow only a millimeter a year," he said, while shallow water elkhorn coral grows extremely fast - several inches per year.
While the bleaching problem hit many areas of the Caribbean, Rogers said water temperatures were particularly warm in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"We had more mortality than the rest of the Caribbean," she said.
Miller said a study showed that Caribbean coral reefs are important to the economy. He said the 2004 study by the World Resources Institute showed that the reefs are responsible for $3.1 billion to $4.6 billion worth of fishing, dive tourism and shoreline protection in the Caribbean.
Rogers said it's not known if the bleached corals will produce the larvae that enable them to reproduce.
Both said it's too early to know what this summer will bring in the way of water temperatures, but they worry about what's ahead for the territory's reefs.
Rogers said USGS and park staff are able to keep such close tabs on the coral because, as scientists, they regularly evaluate areas around the islands.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.