Improving Marine Reserves

By Mary Trainor,
Marine conservation student

It is a wonderful sign of the times that governments around the world are taking action to protect the ocean.  One popular marine management tool is the marine protected area (MPA), which aims to conserve marine life and habitats by restricting what people can do within designated MPA boundaries (National Ocean Service 2012b).  There have recently been advancements in both the placement and abundance of state government regulated MPAs in United States waters.  For instance, in June of 2012,  the California Fish and Game Commission approved plans to implement the final 19 MPAs needed to complete the open-coast section of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, boosting California’s total MPA count to 119 (California Dept. of Fish and Game 2012).  In addition, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council is currently re-evaluating the sanctuary’s boundaries and regulations in order to reflect changes in laws and scientific literature (National Ocean Service 2012a).

Continue reading

Coral Reef Management in a Changing Climate

by Laurel Zaima, RJD Intern

Ecological disruptions have been occurring at an alarming rate and have been affecting many sensitive marine organisms. Fortunately, the coral reefs have been fairly resilient to the climate change; however, these disturbances have created a high demand for solutions to conserve the resilience of the coral reef. The scientists of the Prioritizing Key Resilience Indicators to Support Coral Reef Management in a Changing Climate conservation research paper conducted experiments in an Indonesian protected area to understand the coral reef’s level of resilience and the human power to help the coral’s resilience and recovery to the climate changes. The definition of resilience is “the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb recurrent disturbances or shocks and adapt to change while retaining essentially the same function and structure” (McClanahan et. al., 2). Resistance and recovery are the focus of the experiment because they are tangible aspects of resilience.

Continue reading

Biscayne National Park’s Coral Nursery Club: working to protect Florida’s coral reefs

by Jonathan Dorsey, RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program intern

Coral transplanted into Biscayne National Park reefs

Biscayne National Park on the southeastern tip of Florida is 95% underwater. The bay consists of many types of coral species that may be in harm’s way. While these delicate reef structures struggle with warming waters, disease, and physical assaults from boaters, divers, and anglers, volunteers at the park are working to preserve them by designing coral nurseries.

The Coral Nursery Club was founded by the park rangers of Biscayne National Park in 1993. This is a non-profit organization that has three goals in mind: 1) To rescue coral fragments resulting from inadvertent vessel groundings in Park waters, 2) To develop and maintain a supply of natural coral colonies with a diversity that reflects natural conditions in the Park, and 3) To provide a platform for community volunteers to participate and learn the intricacies of coral reef management and restoration.

When the rangers hear of a boat grounding that took place in the bay, they take volunteers to go scavenge the reef for scraps for coral that were broken off or damaged. Using special adhesives, the rangers glue these coral fragments onto small spokes and further places into a long row underneath the dock at Adam’s Key. Then to monitor, the rangers take more volunteers out to photographing the collected samples, checking for growth and rejuvenation. By comparing these new pictures to the old ones, researchers are able to calculate the polyp growth rate and they take note of seasonal variances.

Continue reading