Monthly Archives: October 2011

Breaking Coral Reef News: NOAA Issues Comprehensive Samoa Archipelago Assessment

NOAA recently issued the most comprehensive biogeographic assessment of the Samoa Archipelago to date.  It identified 51 regional areas of high coral and fish abundance and found that less than 10 percent of coral reef ecosystems in the archipelago are located in marine protected areas. The report provides valuable marine resource data for the current Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s (NMS) management plan review, which you can see here.

The report examines the regional ocean climate, distribution of reef fish and coral communities, and the biological connectivity among the islands of Samoa, American Samoa, and their island neighbors as well as the extent of existing marine conservation areas.

Additional findings include:

  • Identification of key sites not represented in the existing marine protected area network,
  • The interconnectivity of larval coral and fish between the islands of the U.S. territory of American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa are connected, and
  • A 0.5 degrees Celsius (32.9 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in the area’s sea surface temperature over the past 20 years.
To see the entire report, click here.

Making Plans, “Bahia” Style

Dwellings, Santa Barbara Island: this is NOT where we stayed

54 hours after leaving my doorstep, we finally amble up to the entrance to our hotel, Hotel Marina Porto Abrolhos, at the end of the road in Caravelas, a bustling little old colonial town of 25,000 in Bahia, Brazil.  But at dusk, after more than two days of traveling, it seems like the most deserted outpost I ever encountered. We had made several plans for operations in Brazil, depending on the reality on the ground once we got there. Plan A had 12 of us on Santa Barbara island for the duration of the trip, with  myself and another student potentially staying in Caravelas for 4 days to do some land-based fisheries work and joining the rest of the team afterwards. Shortly after arriving, we are debriefed by our Brazilian colleagues who have been handling the logistics.  There would be no staying on the island, and the charter boat they had secured instead would not have space for all 14 of us, meaning one of us would have on remain on land in Caravelas for the duration of the trip. With luck, there would be speedboats available for day trips to the island, but there was no guarantee. This all came in somewhere around Plan G. Worse, I had

After weeks of planning and uncertainty, our first view of the island was almost out of a dream

been unable to contact the fiseries researchers in the area prior to leaving the land-based plans had not been solidified, so the threat of Plan G and 10 days alone in Caravelas was quickly becoming a reality.

Luckily one of the Brazilian PI’s, Ronaldo Fracini-Filho, not only knew the person I had been looking for, but in fact, would take me to the restaurant down the road where she just happened to be having dinner.  Given that by now it was already 10:30pm, and I hadn’t recalled passing a single structurally sound building, let alone restaurant, in the final few miles leading to our hotel, I was becoming progressively more and more worried!! Ten minutes later, after a walk down a dark and dusty road, we arrived at the restaurant and began an impromtu meeting that would result in keeping myself and another student busy for the next 5 days in Caravelas, meeting with visiting researchers, touring nearby fishing ports, and conducting some basic fisheries investigations.

Despite all our plans, there were some welcome surprises.

Arranging travel to the island and meeting up with our colleagues turned out to be another matter altogether, and one that would find us wandering around town looking for the marine park office, lost in translation during a strange conversation with a bewildered security guard, and eventually a ride to the islands with “the worst captain ever, period,” as Ronaldo would later describe him.  When all was said and done, we stayed on Plan A and everything went perfectly… like I said, making plans “Bahia” style!!

Notes From the Field: Palmyra Atoll

Dr. Nichole Price replaces corals to artificial reefs on Palmyra Atoll after weighing them to determine how much corals grew during the previous ten months.

Several researchers from the Smith lab recently traveled to Palmyra Atoll, a remote island in the central Pacific, to conduct research on the effects of ocean acidification on tropical calcifiers in a “pristine” environment.  High levels of carbon dioxide emissions are not only changing the earth’s climate, but are also changing the chemistry of the ocean.  One of the notable changes in ocean chemistry is a decrease in pH, or ocean acidification.

I accompanied Dr. Smith and post-doctoral researcher Dr. Nichole Price on this expedition, where we conducted field and laboratory experiments with the additional assistance of Dr. Stuart Sandin, graduate student Brian Zgliczinsky, and research assistant Brittany Peterson from the Todd Martz lab (Scripps). We continued to monitor growth and calcification rates of corals and calcified seaweeds at a variety of sites across the atoll that experience varying fluctuations in daily pH.  On land, researchers exposed fleshy and calcified species of algae to high CO2 to in order to understand the effects of ocean acidification on different tropical algae.  Both calcified algae and fleshy algae serve many important ecological functions in coral reef communities, but they may respond differently to elevated CO2, therefore it is important to understand the community and organismal responses of tropical calcifiers and fleshy algae to ocean acidification.  One of the goals the Smith lab hopes to achieve is to shed light on the question of which tropical calcifiers are the most vulnerable to ocean acidification, and which organisms possess the potential to adapt and survive?

scripps oceanography uc san diego