The Florida Coral Reefs may be Next …

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

If BP, along with the ‘Best and the Brightest’ can’t manage to turn off the spigot … The Florida Coral Reefs may be Next

Group Records Florida Coastal Environment Before Oil Arrives

Creighton Team Helps Oil Spill Study

MSNBC June 3, 2010

A research team from Creighton University is gathering data along Florida’s Gulf Coast and trying to stay ahead of the oil spill.

The team’s leader, John Schalles, said recovery crews aren’t the only ones scrambling against the resulting environmental disaster.

Creighton Professor John Schalles on the Oil Spill…

More from the Professor in this local News Report

Creighton Researchers Monitor Gulf Coast

Embedding disabled by request…

Professor Schalles must have seen this computer projection, of what will eventually happen if the Gulf Gusher continues unabated:

Study: Oil headed for Atlantic Coast

USAtoday — Jun 03, 2010

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) led the study, which used powerful computer models to estimate the potential path of the oil over the next few weeks and months.…

I’m glad they’re getting the “Base Line data” in the Florida Keys. In order to have significant “Before and After” snapshots — you definitively need those “Before ones” in good standing.  The same goes for datasets too.  So Kudos to Schalles and crew, for doing this “in the trenches” science, ahead of the storm.

But maybe there are some other steps, I dunno, maybe NOAA or the Coast Guard, could be doing to protect Florida’s precious Coral Reefs before the inevitable happens?  Inquiring minds, want to know …

Well from Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Response page

A link on this page Points to a NOAA Study that discusses the importance of Coral, and gives some general Guidance on what to do if Oil does one day, strike the reef …

DHR: Coral and Oil  

May 13, 2010

And in the final Summary of that NOAA Guidance regarding the mixing of Coral and Oil, we find these conclusions:

Toxicity of Oil to Reef-Building Corals (pdf)

NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OR&R 8

Toxicity of Oil to Reef-Building Corals:

A Spill Response Perspective

Seattle, Washington

September 2001


National Ocean Service

[pg 68-70]


1 ) Oil is toxic to corals.

Although Wilkinson (1999), in his review and prediction of trends in coral reefs worldwide suggested that “…it is unlikely that major oil spills near coral reefs will cause significant damage,” most of the literature points to a potential for impact that cannot be ignored. We can argue about how toxic oil is to corals and how that toxicity is expressed, but it is clear that exposure to oil can adversely affect corals. […]

Direct contact between a living coral and oil, whether it is intertidally or subtidally, is likely to result in serious pathologies or death of some portion of the colony.

— Based on the admittedly limited literature in which exposure concentrations were measured, a reasonable effects threshold in the water column is 20 ppm. […]


Transient concentrations of oil in the water below 20 ppm are probably not likely to result in lasting harm to a coral reef. The key word here, outside of “probably,” is “transient.” This implies that such a concentration would be sustained and experienced for only a short time. The situation where such a level is a chronic parameter, where there is a continuing source, may result in more serious pathological effects to exposed coral reef communities.

2 ) Time of year is critical.

[…] In other words, if we know who is reproducing when, it takes us a long way toward determining whether the spill has an enhanced potential for injury to the corals. Appendix C is intended to help define periods of increased vulnerability.

In many areas of the world, spring and summer are peak reproductive periods. This is reflected in Appendix C. […]


The information is organized by region (Caribbean, Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, Okinawa, Central Pacific, and Red Sea). Coral species for which reproductive information was available are listed down the vertical axis, and months of the year are listed across the horizontal axis. ]


[Diarist Note: the referenced Chart is missing from the pdf, and I think this is the original source Document referenced as

Richmond and Hunter (1990) (pdf)

Diarist Note 2: The table in that study shows much of the Caribbean Coral reproducing in Summer or Spring (sp.);  An image of this table will be posted the end of this diary.]


3 ) Expert knowledge should be used.

Coral experts who have knowledge of the reefs of concern should play a key role in shaping a response strategy. For example, local biologists may be able to tell whether a threatened area is dominated by branching corals, thought to be sensitive to oil, or massive corals, thought to be more tolerant.


Resource managers […] provide useful and relevant information about portions of a reef community that may be experiencing greater stress from (for example) a recent grounding or hurricane damage. In this way, such experts can help to identify areas for increased protection […]

4 ) Cumulative impacts complicate things.

Everything that we know about oil and corals may be moot if the reef in question is under serious stress from other sources before the spill. Currently, concerns about coral reef deterioration are nearly universal. Warming of the oceans has been identified as a key factor in widespread coral bleaching events;


It is possible that an oil spill in any area subjected to substantial but unrelated stress may represent a synergistic “tipping point,” an impact that ordinarily would not cause significant damage, but that against the background of other stresses causes a rapid cascade of seemingly irreversible decline in the reef system.

Well, that’s not really Guidance so much as several Warnings, with a Recommendation to find the Local Experts and Resource Managers.

Professor Schalles, I hope someone from NOAA or the Coast Guard gives you a hollar.

And what do those Florida Coral Reefs look like anyways… in case the worse case … continues to unfold as predicted.  Hopefully something will live on into posterity …

Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary…

Sometimes you just don’t know what you have, until it’s gone

National Marine Sanctuary Introduction Video…

Some more Fun Facts

DHR: Coral and Oil  

May 13, 2010

General Coral Reef Facts

Based on current estimates, shallow water coral reefs occupy approximately 284,300 square kilometers (110,000 square miles) of the sea floor. If all of the world’s shallow water coral reefs were placed side-by-side, they would occupy an area a bit larger than the state of Texas.

The total area of coral reefs represents less than 0.015 percent of the ocean. Yet coral reefs harbor more than one quarter of the ocean’s biodiversity. No other ecosystem occupies such a limited area with more life forms.

Reefs are often compared to rainforests, which are the only other ecosystem that can boast anywhere near the amount of biodiversity found on a reef. Coral reefs are sometimes called rainforests of the seas.

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

about the way we callously treat, our cozy Planet Home.

Maybe someday we’ll learn

Then again … who can say, what we really value most …

in each of our ‘restless chase’ …


Appendix C —  source data:

larger image

Richmond and Hunter (1990) (pdf)



Skip to comment form

    • jamess on June 5, 2010 at 04:39

    about that ‘restless chase’

    Neil Young – The Restless Consumer

    Embedding disabled by request

    They call her the Queen of Oil — so much to Discover …

    • RiaD on June 5, 2010 at 04:45

    extraordinary information….

    you’re one of the few i always rec before reading.

    i know i’m getting rec-worthy material when i see your name…

    thank you.

  1. … away from the Florida coastline on the west side, but the wind is going to over come this sooner or later, I fear.

    Then it’s going to shoot those underwater plumes thru the gap between Florida and Cuba and out in to the Atlantic, which I think has happened on a smaller scale already with surface oil sheen.  

    I pull up the satellite pics every day and look at the ones from the beginning. They take those NOAA and NASA pics to show organics or different temperatures,  and if I adjust the color exposure (after staring at it daily I can tell where it went overnight easily without having to do this)  it always shows the sheen is much farther to the south and east and sometimes west than the “official” projection maps.   The surface stuff is wind driven.  The underwater stuff is going to wreck havoc.  : (  

    It’s all over the the Eastern half of the Gulf.  It’s terrible.

    So the instincts of the Florida dept of tourism was to go out and tell people to fish more this weekend, no license needed this weekend, extra day for oyster gathering.

    Why don’t they send people out to try to save some fish somehow, not finish them off.  

  2. …are saying they will be releasing the ‘cleaned’ birds on the Florida coast (East?  But even so.)?

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