Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida
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Diver taking notes near coral reef
Crédito de la foto: Bekah Nelson

Restaurando nuestros arrecifes

Los arrecifes de coral son fundamentales para la salud y la diversidad de nuestros océanos. Aunque los arrecifes de coral representan solo el uno por ciento de los hábitats oceánicos, sirven como hogar, protección y zona de desove para una cuarta parte de toda la vida marina.

Los arrecifes regulan los niveles de dióxido de carbono en el agua y evitan la erosión de la costa al mitigar los efectos de las corrientes y huracanes en alta mar. Florida posee el tercer sistema de arrecifes más grande del mundo. La interrupción de la biodiversidad del arrecife puede desencadenar la pérdida del arrecife en su conjunto. Esto es particularmente cierto en los Cayos de Florida. El "blanqueamiento de los corales", provocado por las altas temperaturas del agua, ha causado daños importantes en los arrecifes en Florida. Cuando el agua está demasiado caliente, los corales expulsan las algas (zooxantelas) living in their tissues, causing the coral to turn completely white. Corals are under considerable stress and subject to high mortality if bleaching events occur too frequently or other significant threats are present. Unfortunately for Florida’s reefs, other threats are present.

High salinity levels in the Florida Bay, caused by the diminished flow of freshwater to the Everglades, threaten many of the species of coral comprising the Florida Keys reef system. Water pollution, sedimentation, and careless boating and diving that physically damage reefs can be locally problematic. Reefs can also be damaged or destroyed by hurricanes.

lion fishLa liberación intencional o accidental de dos especies de pez león (género Pterois) into local waters over the past 30 years is causing further harm to Florida’s reefs and fisheries. Large lionfish populations now exist in the Caribbean, western Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. Native to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, lionfish have no known significant local predators. With its formidable venomous spinal tissue, sit-and-wait ambush tendencies, and the ability to consume prey more than half of its length, the lionfish is quite the intimidating predator to smaller fish and invertebrates, many of which are important to keeping reefs clear of algae.

Corals, when stressed, also become susceptible to disease. A previously unknown coral disease called stony coral tissue loss disease appeared in the upper Keys in 2014 and has since spread throughout the entire reef – more bad news for a reef that has lost half of its coral over the last two centuries.

Our Foundation is committed to the long-term restoration of Florida’s reefs. We work with FWC, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA, and others to combat coral disease, establish long-term monitoring of reef restoration efforts, and identify breakthrough strategies that will substantially reduce lionfish numbers throughout Florida waters, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.

And for the past two years, our foundation, FWC, Disney, SeaWorld, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have quietly been holding the largest amount of rescued corals in a non-descript Orlando warehouse called the Florida Coral Rescue Center thanks to a generous starter kit from World Wide Corals. The center is the largest facility of its kind in the U.S. and will play a significant role in the future of the coral reefs; scientists are already seeing corals reproducing!

Rescuing corals ahead of the disease progression was an attempt to keep corals from getting sick and safeguard their genetic material to repopulate the reef. Many of the coral species had never been managed in human care before and little was known about their needs. But coral aquarists have advanced coral science, developed new coral care techniques, and ensured optimum coral welfare. In some cases, they are observing behaviors that researchers and field biologists have never observed before, like the reproduction of threatened cactus corals.

 

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