Joshua VOSS 3/21/18 Southeast Florida's Coral Reefs: The Fine Lines
Thank. You Dennis everyone hear me okay. So, I'd, like to start off my own my, own Maryland, story, when. I first came here, it's. Hard coming, into a new position and, she. Was one of the very first people that pulled me aside, she. Personally encouraged, me to do two things, number, one do. What I always thought was right and number. Two not, to take blank, from anyone including, Dennis. Who at the time was honest and. And. I think I did pretty good with that what would you say Dennis. But. She was an amazing woman she'll be sorely missed and she, touched me deeply as well. Today. I'm. Going to talk about some. Things that are going on locally, our. Work. Spans across the, Gulf Mexico and wider Caribbean, but. There's been a lot going on on Southeast, Florida coral reefs in particular, that I wanted to focus on today and, while. I originally, went and it's asked me to give a lecture this year thought. I would focus on, water. Quality issues, and hence this idea of fine line. Much. More has happened since. I first came up with that initial, title and so, it's not just one, line I'm gonna be talking about it's. Gonna be multiple, lines because. There's a line, of water quality that's very stark on our reefs there. Was a line of Hurricane, Emma and where that track went very much dictated a lot of environmental, changes, across our state and then, lastly we've had a dramatic disease. Invasion, up. Into, the northern part of the fortwo reef tract and it's, a disease, that manifests, itself is a very distinct, line moving, across the coral so it's multiple lines that we'll be talking about tonight. This. Is a this, is work that's been, developed, since about 2010. With a multitude of partners. And agencies. The. One that really got me involved in, working in the southeast, border region, initially, was Jeff Beal Jeff. Works for FWC, but he's stationed, here at Harbor branch, he's a, marine, and habitat, restoration specialist. And. He was one of the ones that first. Introduced. Me to st. Lucie reef which I'll talk a bit about tonight, and. Started. Giving us thinking about how. Do we not just monitor these changes, but then go to that next step of making recommendations. That can result. In some kind of improved, conservation, status for reefs in South Florida. All. The folks that are up on top here in the first bullet are all folks, that have worked for me on this project over, the past few years those. That are asterisks. Are graduate, students who, completed, their work specifically.
Related. To things that st. Lucie reef and, the last one of those asterisks, Ian is still here today he's, not quite done yet but he'll get there. Everyone. Else in the middle our folks from Harbor branch that they've also contributed, to this project, Dennis. And Kristin through the air long network and other, factors, have really been important, a number. Of folks out in the aquaculture park Richard Baptiste Pearce talking Pierluisi have. All helped with, some of the experimental work Jimmy. Nelson and that Roy had been instrumental in helping us to get in the field and tatiana. And gregor Cory Crowe have helped us to do some of the molecular analysis, well, the analysis. But the throughput of the of, the sequencing, itself. Brian. Walker at Nova has been a key. Collaborator, on some of the recent work kathy. Fitzpatrick works. For martin county and it's, been a strong advocate for this work throughout. Our time here and then, Kate Andrews, Scott and a number of folks that have FDEP. Have also contributed, to the work it's. Been funded by a number of sources. Initially. With a little bit of plate money then, for the Sea Grant the NOAA. Coral reef conservation program. And recently. An EPA grain as well so it's a long-term program that I'll be talking about today with a lot of folks working a lot, harder than me at times on. So. Most of you are familiar with corals, and why they're important for southeast Florida they're this amazing, symbiosis between a, cnidarian, and a number of other organisms but the one that seems to be the most important, to driving their success is, the symbiosis, that they have with the dinoflagellate. Microalgae, commonly. Known as those, in belly or sim biotin ium or just, algae, that are inside their tissues, so. If you look really small you see this little spheroid micro, alga and this. Is a true mutualism. Where both are benefiting, so. The coral is providing. Nutrients, and protection, essentially. Fertilizing. The growth of those algae within their cells and in, turn the microalgae. Are doing photosynthesis. And generating sugars that the corals can use for energy and. So. The net result of that is that you get enhanced, coral, growth so, this tight symbiosis, results. In coral. Growth rates that are much higher and, corals that have the algae versus corals that do not. And. Here. That symbiosis, has, really led to a lot of success, not. Just in South Florida but globally, coral. Reefs are very high centers of productivity, in other words the, amount of carbon, that's being fixed, into a system and driving the energy that provides up. Trophic, systems and into the overall ecosystem and, the. Thing we tend to care about most in that regard is the amount of fish or lobster, that can produce for us but. There's a number of other benefits as well we have really high centers of biodiversity. Biodiversity. Is important both in terms of aesthetic appeal, as well as ecosystem, resilience, we. Have really, important coastal protection facets. That our coral reefs provide here, in South Florida, you. Know if we did not have reef lines along our coast when things like Burma and Matthew come by we, would lose exponentially. More houses. We. Know that our tourism industry here, is strongly driven by reefs. And reef services, and, that. High center of biodiversity, also results in a lot of potential pharmaceuticals, we, have a lot of organisms, stuck on the bottom that cannot run away from one another so instead, they produce secondary metabolites, to try to fight one another underwater, that, ultimately results in things that can fight cancer, or fight other issues that we have. So. Some, of these kind, of subjective overall. Benefits. Can also be, tapped, into real numbers and. The. Current, global estimate, is that corals, are worth just under. Ten, trillion, dollars, worldwide. And, here. In South Florida it's. Various estimates between roughly eight and fifteen billion dollars per, year now.
That Includes every. Every, one of those potential, benefits. Listed, up on top boiled, down into one single number, but. One that's a little bit even more tangible, than that is, that there are at least, 70,000. Probably closer at about seventy one thousand jobs that, are directly linked, to coral, reefs in South Florida. So. Our reef tract here in South Florida extends. From just. South of where we are at st. Lucie reef and st. Lucie Inlet all the, way down around the southeast coast of Florida beyond. Biscayne National Park, and into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and. Out, to the Dry Tortugas, and indeed, this continues, to extend up, and around along the West Florida shelf but, these are the areas that are within Florida, State coastal waters and managed. As part of the Florida reef tract. So. We have all these amazing benefits however, corals. Have been facing a lot of trouble especially in the past thirty years or so there, have been multiple incidents, where we've gone from reefs that are heavily dominated by coral cover like what we see on the left to, reach that are increasingly, dominated, by macro algal cover and there's. A number of factors that are contributing to that. We. Have increasing. Storm. Frequency. And, intensity, we. Know that here in South Florida we do a lot of beach renourishment activities. And beach renourishment could, have negative impacts, including burying, coral reefs including, one just off of hopes down National Wildlife Refuge. Direct. Impacts, like boat groundings, ship. Anchors diver fins etc, can harm corals. Overfishing. Or just over exploitation and, taking too much out of the system in general can lead to reef collapse, we, know that water quality is a problem, and lastly we've seen an emergence of coral diseases, in the past forty years roughly, 36. Or 37 new, diseases that have been described, in about, the past four decades. So. Here. In South Florida we have a particular, a particularly. Interesting, problem. Where we. Know we have all of these different stressors. That are combined and some, of those we have more control of than others so for example, it's very difficult, for to predict control, when a new disease may evolve in a system but. One of the things we do have a lot of control over is our water quality we. Live in a system with nine inlets, and six highly. Managed out Falls and, all of these are in very highly managed, watersheds, where we control and make decisions about where the water is going to move at various different times. We. Know that Lake Okeechobee is really key link in this chain but. It's not the sole driver and it often gets fingered, as the sole driver and that's certainly not the case for. Example Lake, Okeechobee contributes. Roughly about 20 percent of the water to the st. Lucie estuary. Watershed. Each year so, it's only about a fifth of the total volume of water that we have to deal with in our in our region, one. Of the things to think about too is that we know Florida, is built on a model of economic, growth tax. Structure, favors people, moving to Florida if we don't have people moving to Florida our state starts to go bankrupt literally. So. Increasing. Populations, mean that we're gonna have an increasing, reliance on water availability and, what. To do with waste water in our region so, this is not a problem that's going to go away and it's probably not a problem that just technology is gonna fix we're gonna have to make some hard decisions as, well.
So. One of the places that we've focused on this issue initially, was at st. Lucie reef so this is at the very northernmost. Tip, of that Florida reef tract a really, interesting ecotone, where you're starting to see an introduction of both tropical species and a lot of temperate, fish species in the same location, driving. Really high biodiversity about. 250. Fish species on. Average and, it's also the normal of the northern limit for, about twenty, one different scleractinian, or, hard corals, along, the coast of Florida so, you can still find these corals if you go all the way to Bermuda but, if you keep going along the coast of Florida 21. Of these 25 drop out after st. Lucie Inlet. It's. An area that's a really important commercial and recreational fish, resource, any. Of you that we're out this past weekend would have seen literally hundreds, of boats on this State Park just offshore, and, it's easily accessible shallow. To diving it. Is open, for recreational, fishing and commercial fishing you, just can't use long nets or fish traps or spear fishing. It's. An area that's dominated, by two coral, species a Nobby brain, coral, called pseudo deplore iya and a, star coral called montastraea cavernosa, so, I'll come back to both of those later on since they're the most important, corals on this reef. Now. We've been tracking discharges. In this area for a long time and, we've, been able to see changes, in the water quality. Visually. Quite easily when, we're out on the water, most. Of the time we're trying to avoid that nasty. Dark. Water not, because of necessarily, health risks for us since, in most cases were at a salinity. Level that will be killing anything that might be potentially, harmful to humans however, it's really hard to see in, black water, so. We are almost always targeting. Our surveys. And work during times of high tide but. Using. Drone technology and aerial, overflights, we've been able to get some really good images, of how, and, when, this. Water discharges. Out of the inlet and the extent, at which it spreads over space and time so. Here in September of. 2015. You can see this very stark, line and, we. May think that, during the dry season, is when we're gonna be okay but the past few years that's not been the case we've had some abnormally, wet dry seasons, answer. That an abnormally, late hurricane. Rainfall. That's been coming down through the state far into the dry season so even in the dry season in February or this year into December we've. Started to see lots. Of fresh water coming out of the inlet and, then perpetuating. Onto the reef where we've seen drops. Of salinity, from what's normally, about 35, or 36 on this reef down, to as low as 16, parts per thousand, so. Corals and other organisms, can withstand that for a short amount of time but not for an extended amount of time so. It's the duration, of these events that matters just as much as the intensity. So. We're faced with this set of problems and what's our approach we've taken a, basically. Combining three different things controlled. Experiments, exploration. And monitoring and trying, to develop some advanced molecular tools I'm really going to focus on these two on the right today because I've presented about our controlled experiments, a couple years ago at O SLS. All of these basically, three things one to develop new, approaches, and new methods, to try to address these issues second. As soon as we have data that's available we, share that with our agency, partners and we immediately share the recommendations, with those agency partners as well that. Usually, is a faster, pipeline, than running it through the publication, process and, waiting it for it to get to them later can expedite, the, process of making a change and then, lastly I've really been focused on trying to, get students who are involved in both their.
Educational, Process as well as you and the students involved in the outreach and storytelling, aspect of this I'll touch on that at the very end so part, of that monitoring, is water quality monitoring most of you are familiar with our Lobo, Network the Indian River Lagoon Observatory. And that's. Overlaid. With some additional, resources as well there's the BB hydro Network as. Well as a, network, of Odyssey, temperature. And salinity loggers, that we've deployed over time and none. Of these all overlap, together but, there's enough overlap between the three of them that we can get a decent idea of how water quality is changing, in these resources at, any given time. For. Field surveys and monitoring we basically have some nested, approaches, at, st. Lucie reef where we first started this in 2010, we've. Essentially, monitored, the same reef sites in the same corals three. Or four times every, year for the past seven years, with. Some additional funding from NOAA. We were able to scale up and add, places, in Jupiter, in West Palm Beach two, years ago and then, following, Hurricane, Emma with some funding from FDEP we expanded, further, down. All the way to the southern terminus on Palm Beach and then, partnered with Nova, and Durham, to, do the rest of the southeast Florida region all the way down. Essentially. Do you Miami, the. Port of Miami. And. Then. We've also developed this really nice optimized, pipeline, so that every coral sample we get is going through a whole suite of potentially. Different kinds, of analysis, so, when we take a small coral frag usually a biopsy in the, area of about 4 to 6 square centimeters so about this big. We. Immediately take a small, so they pulled that to do population, genetics to try to figure out how the korells are related to one another we. Also do gene expression, so the same way you turn, on genes in response to stress or different stimuli corals. Do the same thing so. If I hand, all of you a little bit of popcorn, all of, your insulin, production genes if yours are good, maybe not everyone's are but, their's are going to turn on and start producing insulin in your body in the anticipation of, a, sugar hit later on after you smelled that corals. Respond in the same way when, they get hit with the stimuli they turn on certain Suites of genes and we can measure those genes being turned on. We. Then also take a small frag and remove, all the tissue using. A little Waterpik sprayer just like a saved dental Waterpik you would use separate. Out the alcohol from the coral tissue and then also scan. The skeletal fragments that, we can understand both, the morphology, of that coral as well as the surface area that, was available so we can scale all these other measurements, back, to the surface area of the amount of tissue that we sampled. So. First I'm going to talk a little bit about population.
Genetics In this area, and. This is work that one of my graduate students who has just finished and gone on to an OA canal fellowship, did Danny dodge we. Were interested, in trying to understand whether. Or not st. Lucie reef might be this sinc population. It's, way out of the end of, the, Florida reef tract we assume that it is, not, getting a lot of coral recruitment we've, heard the track coral recruitment there, and basically seeing no new corals coming in we, looked at the reproductive, capacity, of the corals that were there and found only one, coral, out of all of them was even trying to make any sperm, or eggs so. Based on that we assumed that this was a sinc population, where occasionally things, come in but not much gets produced much. To our surprise we found that it might be the exact opposite, so, we saw relative, evidence, of connectivity so on this structure plot here each, bar, represents an. Individual, colony and the, contribution, of the different colors tells you something about which source. Population. It may have come from so. You see there's three distinct, source populations. All, three. Of those are represented at st. Lucie and Jupiter, but, Palm Beach only has two of the source populations, and when we started to look at the patterns of my raishin predicted, by, the population, genetics, essentially what we saw was that rather, than going from south, to north which. You might predict based on the Gulf Stream it. Was little Eddie's, coming off of the Gulf Stream that we're driving coral, RV back the other way so, that occasionally. Anywhere, from two to 20% of the larvae were going from st. Lucie reef South to. Jupiter, or West Palm. So. We, have good evidence of connectivity in this region for this coral and, it's pretty it's, most likely indicative of what many of the other corals in this region are doing as well. We. Also want to look at that gene expression, component, of it. So. The. First step we did to this was to use a targeted. Microarray, so using a microarray you'd. Predefined. The genes you're going to measure so we picked about 2,000, different genes that were of known interest, and looked, at the relative expression, or how much they were turned off or on at any given time so.
Genes Here that are shown in green or are genes that were increased. In the amount that they were turned on genes that are shown in red were once they were decreased. In the knot they were turned on and overall. What we found is that during, times of discharge, when we had lots, of flow coming out of the inlet we. Saw an elevation, in things like cell. Metabolism so, if they were trying to ramp up their metabolism to. Out-compete, this, smothering, effect we saw an increase in tissue repair, genes so. Likely there's some damage occurring and the corals are trying to prepare themselves and, not. Surprisingly, and always saw an increase in osmotic, stress genes so. Osmotic. Stress is when the, ionic, balance saltwater, versus fresh water is thrown out of whack and during. Times of discharge we have lots of fresh water coming in of course you would expect to see this. Now. When we first did this there was not a full transcriptome. In other words the, entire list of all potential, genes that that a coral could be expressing, available, and since. Then that has become available so. The other thing that Danny did was to instead, of looking, at just those targeted, genes to. Use a new technique called tag, seek where, you look at all of the genes that are being turned on at one, and. She was able to to look at this the changes over three and a half years roughly at st. Lucie reef and. She was ultimately able to map about thirty-eight thousand different genes back to the Montessori cavernosa, transcriptome. That's. A really high amount relative. To, a fairly, understood species. But. Only about 10% of these were differentially, expressed so, in other words the, vast majority of genes are just turned on and staying consistent all the time and, it's a small fraction, that fluctuate, up and down in response to those stressors, and. What she found is that by far. When. You sampled, or the season, in which you sampled, was, the biggest contributor, to how corals, changed, not, when discharge, was not. Where that coral was, but. Rather when. You sampled, so, that would suggest things, like light and temperature, probably, the primary, drivers, of how these corals are responding. So. If you had to ask me where we were at, maybe. Look. Ten months ago in May of 2017 I would have told you this we. Would have said we know that the coral populations, in Southeast Florida are pretty strongly connected that's. Important, in terms of management because that means you want to manage them as one big unit rather than little separate populations. We. Know that st. Lucie has these really high levels of biodiversity driven. By being at that temperate, interface, and. John Reed hadn't done a lot of work to describe that early on as well. We. Know that the corals are responding, seasonally, to these different, temperatures, and thresholds, but. That the reefs appeared relatively, resistant, to these discharges, and this is one of the things that just boggles my mind that they were continually, getting pummeled by discharge. Events coming out of Lake Okeechobee and the st. Lucie estuary, but the corals seemed to do okay, they, weren't necessarily growing, they weren't necessarily reproducing, a whole lot but, they weren't dying they were surviving. So. I would have said that they were persistent and resilient. But, they were vulnerable because, it was a relatively small population and, it, wasn't reproducing. And. I kind of really regret, saying. This so. Confidently. Because, I feel like I almost set them up to fail when I did. So. Shortly, after this our. Initial studies there I'm in 2014. There was a new disease that emerged. Characterized. As white blotch disease, so. It started, right. Off of Virginia, Key new government, cut down the Erasmus. Characterized. As one of those line, diseases, that has a very distinct, line of tissue necrosis and, it, marches its way across the coral, the, tissue flakes, off from what's left behind is that bare white coral, skeleton, and, these, were relatively, rapid. So. For, some of the initial, infections, it took maybe upwards of a year or. Two years for a coral to die completely like, this pillar coral shown, here in the top panel but. Then some. Other infections, seemed to go really rapidly, inside. Of a month or so so this is another. Pseudo. Deplore iya stri. Gosa brain coral, in Broward. County that, was basically completely, gone inside, of a month. So. Over the course of two years that disease started to spread. Initially. It spread very quickly north. About, a hundred kilometers, and south. Into Biscayne. Bay about 30 kilometers, and then. The following summer continued. To expand. North to about 140, kilometers, and south, along the northern Florida Keys and, whenever, you see this kind of radial. Discharge. And/or radial, expansion. Of a disease that's.
Usually A pretty strong indicator, that it's a waterborne, pathogen, of some kind now, we still have no idea what, the pathogen, for this disease. Is there's. A number of groups working on that including, a consortium that we're involved with that provides samples, to one another look, at everything from molecular, biology, to astrology trying to identify what, this pathogen might be, but. There's also a consensus, that we don't necessarily need to know what the pathogen, is until. We do something about it so we've, been discussing a lot of strategies, to, potentially. Thwart, the advancement, of this disease. Particularly. Along this boundary, along, the southern Florida Keys there's. A strong desire to keep, the disease from jumping, the seven, bridge passage, and making, it to Lukey so. Some of the things that have been suggested, have. Been. Treating. A quarrel with an epoxy line that, provides. A physical break. Embedding. Bleach. Essentially. Powder bleach into, that to, help to arrest. The disease line. UV. Sterilization, has been suggested, as a potential approach. Amputation. Has presence, adjusted, where you would physically. Break the coral and remove the part that was showing signs of disease and. Even euthanizing. Corals has been suggested, to try to prevent the spread through. A population, we're. In the process now of, essentially. Getting permitted, to try some of these different, approaches and see which, of those may be most successful and, most likely to, slow this disease, down or perhaps stop it. One. Of the things has been most devastating. About this has been the effect on Tendo dry rot so, these are the amazing, pillar, corals that can be six, eight feet tall, they've. Never been dominant. In this region, but they were certainly a charismatic. And easily recognizable kind. Of coral on many reefs and it's. Estimated that they're probably going, to go locally, extinct, in Florida waters over, 96%, have, died in the two years and the vast majority of the numbers as a result, of this disease it's, been so devastating, that essentially. They've gone into full. Conservation. Mode where any tender, drier that's left out on the reef is, being sampled and brought, into controlled. Aquaria, to try to save it before it dies. With. The hope then that once we figure it out we can repopulate, later on. So. We. Basically had two years where we were really hopeful that this disease, wasn't going to make it to st. Lucie we thought st. Lucy's remote, it's. At the area where the, Gulf Stream typically, is quite far away from the coastline, there's, not a lot of coral between. Palm. Beach and st. Lucie reef and so, we were very hopeful, that st., Lucie would be spared and unfortunately. That was not the case we. Got a call. From some, friends Dave Gilliam down at Nova that said that some of his folks had spotted a few incidents. Of infection, in this, past May we. Made it out a couple weeks later to take a look and we found that it was starting to take off about 14%, prevalence. Or the percent of corals affected over a given space. Seven. Of the 25 coral species that were there were observed with infection, and at. One of our sites in the southern part of Saint Lucie reef almost. Half of the brain corals there were already showing signs of disease so it wasn't looking great. But. We also knew that this was a really resilient, we that have faced a lot of things before and done, okay so, we were still not necessarily. Throwing in the towel just, yet. In. Hurricane hurricane. Those, of you that live, on this coast and have houses on this coast we're of course thrilled to see the, line moved slightly, to. The west at the peril of our neighbors. But. What was interesting is. That although the. Main line in the center of the storm was quite far to the west this, was one of the widest, storms, that has ever hit Florida such. That even though we didn't have a direct hit we still had quite a few wave impacts, and some localized, areas up. And down the east coast of Florida as well, as just intense, amount, of rain that flooded the entire center of the state. So. We went out just, a month after Hurricane, Irma not, even a month about. 26, days after Hurricane Herman, came through and, we. Were very displeased, to find that essentially, all of our star corals that we attract. Roughly. 80% of them were either completely. Dead or already. Showing signs of. Disease and infection, there was only five left that looked relatively, healthy and.
Those Were of the individuals, that we attract over time that's not all of the corals that were present on those reefs we. Found four colonies, that he either been completely dislodged and broken off or submerged. By. Sediment, scour and. Then. Subsequent. To those initial, kind of wave driven, impacts there, was the second, wave of freshwater, discharge, impacts so. All told we, ended with about 60 billion gallons, coming out of Lake Okeechobee during, a three month span just. After September, and just after the storm all the way until about the first week of December, and. If you look at the, lobo data from that time from the airline network you, can see that essentially, the entire estuary, was freshwater, for that entire three-month, span now. That doesn't mean that was pure fresh water getting out onto the reef but. It did mean and vast, increase, in the amount of turbidity and the, darkness of the water color which. Meant reduced, light getting down to the reef and potentially, other contaminants, coming along for the ride as well. So. We started to see these potentially. Parian. Effects, beyond, just the original storm, damage. So. When we went out to do those post irma surveys, we went to just. Over 60 sites all up and down the east coast and, we saw really high disease, prevalence up, where we are in Martin, County so the way this are oriented, this, is st. lucie up here and it basically goes down to almost, the, end of, Palm Beach County and then, you pick up Palm. Beach County again here, into Broward County and Broward, County, down into, Miami Dade so this is the southernmost point this, is the northernmost, point they're just stacked, together. So. Up here in Martin County all of our sites had really high disease prevalence over, 30%, at all of our sites and down. In Broward County we have fairly high disease, prevalence on the order of five to thirty percent at most sites with. An increase, right down near the Miami Dade line but. Then if you looked in Miami Dade County it was kind of more of a mix and. One of the interesting parts was, that Palm Beach County had, very low disease prevalence. So. One of the working hypotheses, here was that basically. Disease, had already swept, through and, picked, off some of the corals in the Palm Beach County populations, and that, wasn't increased. During, Hurricane, herma. But. If you look at. Storm, damage there's. A similar trend in that, the, northernmost spot up in Martin County and further. Down into Broward, and a little bit into Miami Dade County we saw hurricane, acts from dislodged. And coupled colonies but. Really none, of that at. All in Palm Beach County so. There could be a potential, correspondence. Going on here where those. Corals did not get this additional, stressor, of a, lot of sediment blowing around and blasting, the reef or corals. Getting toppled, and therefore exposed to kinds of disease. So. I don't. Know if we can say that there is a causative. Agent, that hurricane. Irma made more corals, get disease but. I can certainly say that there's an additive, stress or hypothesis, to be explored. So. To, update what. We've seen since, since. Last year we. Know that st. Lucie reefs really were persisting, but totally, vulnerable and that was bared out as soon as some big events, happened right on top of one another and now. When we went out st. Lucie reef just on, Monday we. Saw that those two dominant, species suited up Lauria or the brain coral and montage, tree of the star coral where. Virtually. You. Know really. Hit hard I won't. Say wiped out but I would say on the order of 80% of, the corals that, we had previously been tracking, are dead or dying and.
Those. Few that we're not already dead or dying we're showing signs of bleaching like, this large montage. Recover Nestor right here this, is about a meter in diameter so. Even, though we're not in a warm part of the year and even, though active, discharges, aren't going on and even, though this coral is not diseased it's. Still showing signs of stress it's breaking, down that symbiotic. Relationship, with this algae and the algae are getting expelled from, the coral so. That suggests that, perhaps there's, something else going on here in terms of light limitation, from, prolonged turbidity. In the water column. And, then, again we're really looking at a multi stressor, event it's this combination of, a disease. Invasion, coupled, with a hurricane coupled, with discharge. Events on back of the hurricane, that, have led to this perfect, nasty, storm of events causing, about 80%, of these corals, to succumb. So. Now that I've bummed you all out now. I can tell you a better story so. These, are the folks that work for me they're. Not fighting Star Wars they're gonna be fighting some coral wars over the next few years and. I'm. Not suggesting that anyone has anyone in particular although maybe, I am with Mike being the oldest one. And. So there's a number of areas that we're trying to explore, and others that are trying to explore to understand, what, can we do on a broad scale and local scale to help ameliorate these effects and, what kind of reparations. Could be put in place to bring reefs back what. Kind of things that can we do in terms of water quality to prevent some of these issues from happening again in the future on reefs that are still doing marginally. Okay. Probably. The most important, hope spot for me is the. Work we've been doing on as a Pho degrees so those are those middle light leaf reefs that are roughly from about 130. Feet down. To on the order of 350. To 400 feet, so. They're beyond, standard. Scuba, deaths but there's still enough light there to support photosynthesis. For, the algae to do their thing and for the corals to grow and survive there's. Enough overlap, in the species that are on those meds boudic reefs with the shallow reefs that, potentially. They could be receding, those, shallow populations. And in, general those deep briefs are not, getting exposed to the same kinds of stressors that the shallow reefs are they're. Far too deep to experience, me and kind of wave stresses, you might see with a hurricane they're. Not. Experiencing. Any of the of the anchoring, impacts or beach renourishment impacts. That you might see on shallow. Reef and. In general, they tend to be just farther. From, any other anthropogenic. Stressors in, general, farther. Away from inlets, farther, away from. Outfalls, for example. So. Through the co-operative Institute we've, been exploring and characterizing, in a number of these places, and. Then trying to look, for evidence of connectivity between those mesmo degrees and shallow reefs to, see if they're already starting to do some of that transfer, of larvae from, top to bottom or vice versa and. Mike has found some, really interesting results demonstrating. That in places, like the flower garden banks they probably are well connected and that the men sapota griefs can totally, repopulate, the shallow reefs at times where, as Ryan has found results completely, to the contrary in Belize where, there's two separate populations in, the Mesozoic and shallow zone that, are very distinct, from one another so if you lost the shallow reefs, and. Believes, they may not be repopulated by, those Meza flow to corals, so. We have to do this on a reef by reef basis, and understanding, whether or not this kind of hypothesis, hold broadly. Really. Needs a lot more investigation. Than just two or three places before we understand, how it works. One. Of the other bright spots has been Diadema, recovery, or the long black. Spine urgent, so. In places like Saint. Lucie reef we've seen an explosion in the numbers of these urchins, over time and these, urchins are really important because they graze down macroalgae, that might otherwise overgrowth.
Corals. Increasing. The amount of Diadema on Florida. Keys reefs in particular, and increase. The amount of available substrate. For coral larvae that hopefully, can settle there and grow. There's. Been a lot of emphasis recently. On coral restoration this, idea of growing up small coral fragments that can then be repopulated, out, into an area that's previously, been degraded and there's, multiple different ways in which this restoration, has been approached, some, of it has been in situ. Gardens. Or facilities. Where basically. Build up huge trees or big platforms, in the water column and grow, corals, in an, open. Ocean environment, and then, transplant, them from, those nurseries, out onto, the reef at some point, there's. Been six different coral nurseries funded like this most, of them have focused on a cropper a surfer cornice or the staghorn, coral that's, partially, because it's, endangered, species, but it's also because it's, very easy to snap off and it grows quickly so, if you want to pick a winner for coral restoration a, cropper, server cornice is probably your best bet here, in the, tropical, Caribbean. In. Addition, those, six nurseries, have been testing, various different strategies, with other kinds of species as well, boat. Marine Lab in particular for the keys this, tried to do some micro fragging approaches, where they take a single, coral, colony and chop it up through a bunch of little pieces spread. Them out into a network over, a dead. Piece of coral and then hope that they grow and skews back together with one another and there's been some success with those approaches, as well the. Challenge, with any of these restoration, approaches, is how do we scale up from. Tens. Of thousands, or even millions of, corals that we might plan out on a reef when. We're losing tens of millions or hundreds, of millions of corals during, these disease outbreaks and hurricanes so. That scaling, issue from, how we get from growing, them effectively to outfitting, them with them with surface with some success excuse, me is. Still, one of the big hurdles that needs to be overcome in. Coral, restoration. One. Of the strategies that have been suggested for overcoming that hurdle is, to. Essentially, abandon. The idea of just trying to.
To. Replace. The stocks that have been lost and instead. To try to breathe super, corals in the same way that we selectively, breed dogs. Or, tomatoes, or anything else so. Ruth gates has really been the one leading the charge on this idea the. Idea is to identify, corals. That are in an area that have previously been, exposed to some kind of traumatic, stressor, be, that a lot of heat or a lot of fresh water or something like that and those, corals, persist, and survive so that those might be harder your genotypes, then. They start to collect all of these different hardy genotypes, and crossbreed, them with one another test, them against these different stressors and essentially start to make decisions about which. Corals, might be the ones that are going to be the strongest to survive in the face of climate change or other stressors, so. I think it's an intriguing idea but. We also know that anytime, you do selective, breeding of a population you're, at a risk of genetic bottleneck and so controlling, for bottleneck and being, able to maintain, the, diversity of the population at, the genetic level not, just the individual level is important, as well oh. And. And lastly. The. Other point here that I wanted to make is that just because you have a demonstrated, population, that seemed to be really really tough in the face of the depth of a number of stressors doesn't. Mean is impervious if. You had asked, me to pick one of the strongest, coral populations, in the world so our strongest, coral communities, in the world I were to put my finger on st. Lucie reef and said these corals are amazing, they can get through anything, but, yet they were one of the ones that succumbed, when they were hit with multiple stressors so. Suggesting. That a coral, that can handle a few stressors, may be able to handle all stressors, is certainly not the universal, truth. In. Terms. Of improving water quality we've, made a lot of headway here in Florida so, the. Main legislation, that was passed in in 2008. Has actually a number. Of the, milestones, along that path have already been reached. The. Legislation, said number one there's going to be no new outfalls that's been adhered to you very easily number. Two that we were going to get to 60% water, reuse by, 2025. And right now we're on the order of 20% working, our way there and then. Finally this idea to remove all out Falls by 2025. This. Is still on track, still, slated to happen it. Was, there. Was a legislation. Introduced. To postpone that but it was defeated, and, there's already been some bright spots like Delray Beach beat. Their target, on the, order of decades, and has already closed they're out fall for example. Probably. One, of the most important. Things for this region just happened, on Monday and that is. That Rick Scott just signed into law a bill that, a number of us have been pushing for a very long time and that, is the creation of a coral, conservation, area in southeast, Florida so. This essentially is going to draw one big box from st. Lucie Inlet all the way down to the skåne National Park extending. Out in into. The extent of Florida state waters. And. While there's not yet, a state, appropriation. To support, and implement. Any. Kind of strategies, in this box it. Should allow for two things number, one it should allow for greater enforcement of the existing Magnuson, Stevenson, rules regarding, coral, impacts. And number. Two it should open up this, area to some funding, because it will become a designated, MPA which opens. It for a whole nother suite of federal, appropriations, as well so. That's scheduled, to go into effect in 2019. There's, going to be numerous. Incidents. In which and opportunities. In which the. Public is going to be encouraged to comment on potential. Management. Strategies, within that zone so. I encourage you to look out for that and to weigh in with your opinions, and thoughts accordingly. And. Then lastly this was also supplemented, by a little, $1,000,000 the same little. By. One million dollar appropriation, to study disease, 1, million dollars split up him around 43, people it's.
Small Quickly. So. We've got these positive. Things but there's, still some things that you can do in. Addition to supporting that kind of legislation I, think one of the first things we need to do is really address the issue of climate change and this is both. The in terms of how you vote and how you spend your money and the, choices, that you individually, make so I would encourage you to be. Cognizant. Of what your carbon footprint is doesn't. Mean necessarily you, get rid of your car but. It does mean that you start to think about ok how, much should I Drive my car this year and are there things that I can put money towards that, might offset the, use of that car I. Think. We need to encourage more responsible, voting and diving here in South Florida and, that starts at a very young age those. That learn to do it early on typically, stick, to it their entire life and. It's generally. Easier. To teach those young folks how to do it right from the very beginning I would argue. Again. Supporting, those marine protected area implementation, plans try. To avoid eating things like grouper, choose, a faster, growing species like mahi or even better lionfish. And. Then. Lastly. I would say, you. Know be advocates. Try. To make sure that what. You're sharing is, knowledge, that you can base in fact and science and support so, that you're spreading information. That is useful to others, we. Deal with a, lot of misinformation or, fake news these days right and I. Would say that in, this field in particular the. Information, that we have is changing, so rapidly that, it's sometimes challenging, so. Look. At websites, like ours look, at websites like the FTP, for the latest information that you can and, try to use that in supporting, or making the decisions that you do. So. That's what I suggest you guys can do what are we gonna do to, try to ensure that they're still corals here in the next 80 or 100 years or so one. Things that we're trying to do is to expand, our research on a collaborative network on, a regional, scale so. We're doing a lot of work now with Cuba, we're, partnering, with, roughly. 32. Different agencies, all, along, the southeast Florida corridor, that, are all collectively. Putting, their data and information together to help design the management. Scheme for the, southeast Florida coral, conservation, area I think. We need more, experiments. We do a whole lot of, monitoring. In the field in monitoring infield come to get you so far it's never gonna answer the question of is, that the actual problem, or not doing. More experiments, is about the only way to do that. Believe. It or not those, economic. Numbers that I gave you for coral reefs are probably horribly.
On The low end so. The, reason for that is that we, still have not mapped a large. Number of coral reefs that are available on this planet and that are resources that are important to drive both. Our ecosystems, in our economy, so those numbers probably, need to be. Redressed. And that also needs to incorporate new. Findings, of Meza for degrees for example. We. Really need to improve our capacity, for predictive, management, what I mean by that is that we. Need to be able to suggest, to, an agency, that when they make this difficult decision, here's. The most likely scenario, we think is going to happen and here's our confidence, around that furthermore. Here, the tools for you to measure whether. Or not that impact, was a good choice, far. Too often where we're put in a situation where. Administrators. Or at, a state, county, city level, federal level need, to make a decision and they're paralyzed, by the lack of being able to predict what might happen and therefore, the, decision is not made so the more predictive capacity we can give them the better off they'll. Be able to make that decision with some confidence and at least be able to say no, no no that's what Josh told me was going to happen. And. Then lastly, I would say and I've some, of you have heard me say this before at a previous, OS LS about. Drones. But, really. Enhance, the storytelling, aspect of it all the. Data and numbers are compelling in their own way but, telling the story is compelling in a different way and often reaches a different audience and often reaches. In a way that may have longer. Longer. Fingers, in, society. Than just your data might alone, so. It's something that especially. For those, younger folks in the room I would encourage you to always think about not just what's. The story that your data is telling but what's how, are you going to turn that into a story that's compelling, for, an audience outside, of just science. So. Here are some examples of folks. In my group doing that there's, Mike down at st. Andrews teaching, them about scuba. I, go. Down there about four times a year since. My kids are at st. Andrews now it makes it nice and easy there's. Lots of opportunities, to tell these stories and, if. You are looking for a way to volunteer. And you enjoy, storytelling, this, could be a good way for you to get involved as well. You. Want to learn more about us here's, where we are thank you all very much.