Coastal research could find link in Gulf Coast reef ecosystems

By on December 8, 2011

A new NOAA-sponsered project will determine the impact of mid-light coral ecosystems in the northern Gulf of Mexico on fish and coral populations in Florida’s downstream reefs. The $5 million project is a collaboration of brainpower from 10 universities and NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS).Florida’s reefs have suffered from bleaching, coral destruction and declining fish populations, mostly due to human activities. In addition to native species, this has also hurt local tourism and fishing industries that depend on grouper and snapper. Scientists hope coral ecosystems such as Pulley Ridge, located about 155 miles off the coast of Florida, can help replenish important fish populations in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.

In the next five years, teams will use divers, mapping tools and remote-operated vehicles to visualize the biology, ecology and physical formations of the ecosystems. This collected data will be used to create a resource plan to protect and maintain the mid-light coral ecosystems and restore reefs closer to the mainland.


Image credit: USGS

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