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Why Coral Reefs Are Dying in Florida
This paper focuses on the causes of the decline of corals reefs in Florida. This issue is not awknowlegede as much as it should be given that the research on it is minimal and not up-to-date. Coaral reefs are a essential part of the ecosystem whether they provide a habitat to numerous amounts of fish species, or provide as a food source for humans. Coral reef decline is a result of too much nitrogen in the water and coral bleaching. Research professor Brian Lapointe noticed that over a span of 20 years, 50% of coral reefs in Florida have died off (2019). According to his data, excess levels of nitrogen, produced by humans, in the water is a leading cause to the death of the corals. This paper uses information from Huang (2019), Jones (n.d.), and other researchers to provide information about the causes of the decline of coral reefs in Florida. This paper also gives informaion on how to help prevent the corals form dying and ways to help the restoration of the corals.
Keywords: coral reefs, coral bleaching, nitrogen, global warming.
Why Coral Reefs Are Dying in Florida
Over time, coral reefs in Florida have been decreasing in numbers. Coral reefs are an important part of the ecosystem, for they protect shorelines from eroding by reducing wave action, and much more. Coral reefs support thousands of fish species and provide resources such as medicines that greatly benefit humans. The alert level for this issue is medium. If the coral reefs were to completely die off, many fish species would suffer, people would lose a major food source, and conomies would be gravely affected. Sad to say, coral reefs are dying and for many reasons, including excess levels of nitrogen in the water and increased water temperatures due to global warming.
One major cause of the decrease of coral reefs in Florida, is excess levels of nitrogen in the water, caused by humans. Excess levels of nitrogen is dangerous to corals. According to Huang’s “Florida’s Corals Are Dying Off, But It’s Not All Due To Climate Change, Study Says” (2019), factors that result in too much nitrogen in the waters are “from poorly treated sewage, as well as fertilizer and topsoil from yards and farms…” which result in poor quality of the waters. The extra amounts of nitrogen in the waters, causes blooms of algae which blocks out sunlight, results in a disruption in the coral’s life cycle. The coral’s nutrient balance is thrown off and makes the coral’s unhealthy and more prone to diseases such as coral bleaching. For example, per the article “Quantification of two decades of shallow-water coral reef habitat decline in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary using Landsat data (1984–2002)” (2008), coral reefs can become “patchy (after a bleaching or disease event)…” which leads to less complex reef systems. Less complex reef systems means that there is a decrease in the chance of corals surving. Luckily, there are things that can ben done to reduce the levels of nitrogen in the waters, like managing the run-off and sewage systems. Overall, the overflow of nitrogen levels in the water is harmful to coral reefs.
A more pressing issue concerning the decrese of coral reefs in Florida, is global warming. Global warming leads to rising temperatures in the waters. For instance, as said by the authors in “Assesing the effects of disease and bleaching on Florida Keys corals by fitting population models to data” (2011), “ Elevated temperatures may be diretly linked to disease outbreaks…” such as coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is when the coral loses it sybiotic algae (zooxanthellae). According to Jones’ “The Science Behind Coral Bleaching in the Florida Keys”, once the bleaching has begun the coral releases “its zooxanthellae, and can die within a matter of weeks unless the zooxanthellae populations are able to recover.” The coral also loses it color during this process and becomes “bleached”. The bleaching affects the reproduction of the coral, which results in their death. Unfortunatley, there is not much that can be done to stop global warming, which makes this issue even more serious. Global warming will continue to happen, corals will continue to die, and there is no stopping it. Altogether, coral populations are decreasing due to global warming.
All in all, the number coral reefs in Florida is declining. Research has shown that causes for this are excess amounts of nitrogen in the water and global warming. In addition, there needs to be more recent, up-to-date research regarding the decline of the corals and ways to prevent it. The state and the community should be responsible for this research. Furthermore, the research needs to be communicated to the public through means of social media, tv commercials, and events to raise awareness of the issues and adress the actions that need to be taken.
- Palandro, D., Andréfouët, S., Hu, C., Hallock, P., Müller-Karger, F., Dustan, P., … Beaver, C. (2008, August 15). Quantification of two decades of shallow-water coral reef habitat decline in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary using Landsat data (1984–2002). Retrieved from https://www-sciencedirect-com.db24.linccweb.org/science/article/pii/S0034425708001429?via=ihub.
- Huang, P. (2019, July 16). Florida’s Corals Are Dying Off, But It’s Not All Due To Climate Change, Study Says. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/07/16/742050975/floridas-corals-are-dying-off-but-it-s-not-all-due-to-climate-change-study-says.
- Jones, S. (n.d.). The Science Behind Coral Bleaching in the Florida Keys. Retrieved from https://www.aoml.noaa.gov/keynotes/keynotes_0914_coral_bleaching.html.
- Yee, S., Santavy, D., & Barron, M. (2011, April 10). Assessing the effects of disease and bleaching on Florida Keys corals by fitting population models to data. Retrieved from https://www-sciencedirect-com.db24.linccweb.org/science/article/pii/S0304380011000317?via=ihub.
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