There is some hope for dying coral reefs. A Pacific coral reef declared dead in 2003 is making what appears be a comeback.
Coral Castles reef, located on the floor of a lagoon on the Phoenix Islands an archipelago halfway between Hawaii and Fiji, became a dead zone from unusually warm waters created by a powerful El Niño weather patterns. Things weren’t looking up when researchers came back in 2009 and 2012 to see little improvement on things.
But things changed last year. Whey they returned, they were stunned when they found Coral Castles to be full of vibrant colors and teeming with life.
“Everything looked just magnificent,” said Jan Witting, the expedition’s chief scientist and a researcher at Sea Education Association, based in Woods Hole, Mass
Although the researchers have a long way to go to determine is this is just an isolated incident or if there is something we can learn from this event. As one of the research team pointed out, “if Coral Castles can continue to revive after years of apparent lifelessness, even as water temperatures rise, there might be hope for other reefs with similar damage.”
The team is trying to understand how certain things impacts the reefs — from climate change to human variables like pollution and overfishing. The goal is to try and isolate each problem to be able to see how it could impact the decline and revival of reefs, here and elsewhere.
For example, after the reef’s decline, the government created the 157,626-square-mile Phoenix Islands Protected Area in 2008. Shipping lanes were shifted away from the preservation and commercial fishing was eventually shut down last year.
It could be algae that chokes out reefs and typically takes over when waters warm are facing the same variables and are in decline, or a heartier species of coral is taking over. Whatever the cause is, we are hoping they find out and are glad to have some positive news.
[via New York Times, Image by Craig Cook/Undersea Medical]