Centuries-old coral wiped out by record cold

1 Sep 11 – In January 2010, parts of Florida were hit with an historic cold wave, the coldest since records began in 1873. With temperatures hovering around the freezing point, the cold destroyed millions of dollars of crops and killed at least two people.

Coral reef near Florida's Key West. (Credit: NOAA)


But there was an even bigger battle for life being waged beneath the waves.

“Florida’s coral reefs, some of the largest in the United States, were hit especially hard by water temperatures,” says this article on Our Amazing Planet. In some areas, temperatures plunged to 51 degrees F (11 C), leading to “one of the worst coral die-offs ever recorded in the United States.”

“Some of the largest reef-building species suffered a 40 percent death rate,” the article continues. “At some specific reefs the death-rate climbed to 100 percent.”

“This went from quickly bleaching to mortality within days. I’d say within less than a week,” said coastal ecologist Diego Lirman, an associate professor at the University of Miami and lead author of a study published this month in PLoS One. The event was far more deadly than past warm-water bleaching events in the region, Limon added.

“One degree Celsius [1.8 F] above the normal summer temperatures will cause bleaching; usually the temperature goes back down and that’s when recovery occurs,” said Dustin Kemp, a coral eco-physiologist and post-doctoral research associate who led the research for a different study published this last month in the journal Global Change Biology.

In contrast, the Florida waters were a full 14 degrees F (8 C) below normal.

“Some of the hardest hit corals were from the genus Montastraea — large, boulder-size corals. Many colonies were centuries old, and formed the hardy backbones of the reef ecosystem.

“These Montastraea grow really, really slowly,” said Nancy Knowlton, a coral reef biologist at the Smithsonian Institution, who was not associated with the studies. “They’re kind of like the redwoods of the coral reef. So something that kills large numbers of these large colonies of major reef builders is very bad.”

This coral reef die-off could have far-reaching ramifications for the area’s fish populations, because most of Florida’s sport fish species – and many other marine animals – make the reefs their home.

“Large, live corals provide the foundation of the entire coral reef ecosystem. Fish, shrimp, lobsters — all those animals succeed where there is lots of live coral,” said Kemp.

Very interesting about the coral bleaching. Previous articles that I’ve read have tried to pin the blame for coral bleaching on warmer waters, not colder waters.

By the way, I’m guessing that you won’t read about this in the mainstream media.

See entire very informative article:
Thanks to Caroline Snyder for this link

4 thoughts on “Centuries-old coral wiped out by record cold”

  1. The media likes to play Calamity jane with Coral reef loss here in Australia on a regular basis, but of course its due to Global warming and even occasionally pollution from farms/industry via rivers.
    Coral Reef destruction by cold is going to be very hard for Calamity Jane to come to terms with!

  2. Trying to get anyone to understand that most life on earth will benefit from warmer conditions, but is barely in the lower limit of temperature band life can easily cope with is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. Cold conditions kill things off a lot quicker than warm conditions will. However, someone with influence got the idea that warming is the enemy, and we are going to live (or die) with that world-view, regardless of the cost to the environment and humanity.

  3. regrettably, another bigger story is not being told, the change in fish populations due to ocean current changes.

  4. You bet this won’t be reported in the stupid mainstream anywhere. They are all sick and have an agenda. Global Cooling is a much greater threat than a slightly milder climate, as growing seasons get subject to more freezes and crops fail. This is a perfect example – the very cold winter of 2009/10, and again 2010/11 deep into the South. Parts of Florida experienced the coldest ever December in both 2010 and 2011. There was even snow reported into South Florda – but not much was said about that. As mentioned before, “we will be fighting in the streets for food long before we’re covered by ice.” The truth will set you free.

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