El Niño: Will It Hurt Coral Reefs?

Palmyra (5)

You’ve probably heard about it in the news. You may even remember living through it in the early 80s and 90s. El Niño is here. It's already impacting the Pacific Ocean and this August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saw variances in sea surface temperatures near or greater than 2.0 degrees Celsius. El Niño refers to warming waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Those warmer waters spread to the east, bringing with them a drastic change in weather patterns. Scientists predict that this year's El Niño is extreme and may last through the spring of 2016. That means trouble for coral reefs. In fact, NOAA recently announced that "bleaching due to heat stress is expected to impact approximately 38 percent of the world’s coral reefs—and almost 95% of those in U.S. waters." When water temperatures grow too warm, corals become stressed and oust the tiny algae that live in their tissues, called zooxanthellae. … [Read more...]

Making Scientific Research Relevant

Mushroom coral (Fungia sp.) in Palmyra. Photo by CORAL staff

Scientific research has great potential to inform conservation efforts. All too often, however, scientific results that could be useful languish on library shelves (or get lost in the cloud) instead. Some researchers make concerted efforts to address real-world questions, but these attempts frequently fail because the researchers do not fully understand what kind of information will be most useful to managers and conservation professionals. If on-the-ground practitioners are consulted, it’s usually at the end of a project when they are asked how they will use a new tool or newly revealed information, at which point the opportunity to guide development of the new tool or the type of information collected has long passed. The Reefs Tomorrow Initiative* (RTI) has taken a different approach to ensure that our research results address the most pressing needs of managers and conservation professionals. Parallel to our scientific pursuits, … [Read more...]