Navigation Links
Shipwrecks on coral reefs harbor unwanted species

Shipwrecks on coral reefs may increase invasion of unwanted species, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study. These unwanted species can completely overtake the reef and eliminate all the native coral, dramatically decreasing the diversity of marine organisms on the reef. This study documents for the first time that a rapid change in the dominant biota on a coral reef is unambiguously associated with man-made structures.

The findings of the study, published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, suggest that removal of these structures sooner rather than later is key to keeping reefs healthy.

In many areas of the world, coral reef health is declining, but identifying the exact cause of the problem is difficult. Overgrowth of coral reefs by other species, such as algae, are usually attributed to environmental degradation, but bleaching, disease, damage by typhoons, overfishing, coastal development, pollution, and tourism can cause problems as well.

The study was conducted at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the central Pacific, a relatively remote, comparatively pristine area where little human activity has occurred since WWII. In 1991, a 100-foot vessel shipwrecked on the atoll. Scientists first surveyed the area in 2004 and found a species called Rhodactis howesii an organism related to sea anemones and coralsin low abundance around the wreck. In subsequent years, however, populations of this organism increased exponentially. Scientists documented extremely high densities of R. howesii that progressively decreased with distance from the ship, whereas R. howesii were rare to absent in other parts of the atoll. They also confirmed high densities of R. howesii around several buoys.

Whether this phenomenon occurs on other coral atolls is unknown; however, in the case of Palmyra, the R. howesii infestation is beginning to reach catastrophic proportions, according to Dr. Thierry Work, the lead author of the study and a scientist at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station. Within a few years, R. howesii spread to where it now occupies nearly 1 square mile.

"Why this phenomenon is occurring remains a mystery," said Work. One possibility, he said, is that iron leaching from the ship and mooring buoy chains, accompanied with other environmental factors particular to Palmyra atoll, are somehow promoting the growth of Rhodactis.

"Given the ability of Rhodactis sp. to rapidly reproduce and completely smother reefs, managers are now facing the possibility that even with removal of the ship, sheer reproductive capacity of R. howesii may continue to fuel its spread along the western reef shelf of Palmyra," Work said.

Understanding what constitutes a healthy underwater ecosystem, as well as what does not, is crucial to preventing further losses in species and habitat. This research illustrates a little-known problem that, unlike global warming and pollution, could be prevented by removing man-made debris such as shipwrecks from coral reefs before organisms like Rhodactis howesii can overtake healthy coral reefs.


Contact: Rebecca Walton
Public Library of Science

Related biology news :

1. Fishing ban guards coral reefs against predatory starfish outbreaks
2. New indicator uncovered that can predict coral health
3. Lionfish decimating tropical fish populations, threaten coral reefs
4. 1/3 of reef-building corals face extinction
5. New NOAA coral bleaching prediction system calls for low level of bleaching in Caribbean this year
6. NOAA report states half of US coral reefs in poor or fair condition
7. The good, the bad and the smelly: USGS at the 2008 Coral Reef Symposium
8. Smithsonian coral biodiversity survey of Panamas Pearl Islands
9. New study shows shallow water corals evolved from deep sea ancestors
10. 8-day undersea mission begins experiment to improve coral reef restoration
11. Everythings coming up corals
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... on the growing mobile commerce market and creator ... a leading marketplace to discover and buy innovative ... wallet on StackSocial for this holiday season.   ... "Company"), a biometric authentication company focused on the ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 27, 2015 In the present market scenario, ... for various industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, defense, ... growing demand for secure & simplified access control and ... as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of users, , ... as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected to provide ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... today announced that Google has adopted the Synaptics ® ... controller solutions to power its newest flagship smartphones, the ... Huawei. --> --> ... Google to provide strategic collaboration in the joint development ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... LOS ANGELES and HOLLISTON, Mass. ... Regenerative Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: HART ), a biotechnology ... announced that CEO Jim McGorry will present ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 2:30 p.m. PT. The ... (link below) for 30 days. Management will also be ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Oregon , November 25, 2015 ... Market Research Report is a professional and in-depth ... industry.      (Logo: ) ... overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications ... is provided for the international markets including development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ... New York on Wednesday, December 2 at ... , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... will provide a corporate overview. --> th Annual ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- Clintrax Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services headquartered ... the company has set a new quarterly earnings record in Q3 ... posted for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... , with the establishment of an Asia-Pacific ... United Kingdom and Mexico , with ...
Breaking Biology Technology: