Coral off Puerto Rico's coast 'ideal case study' for Gulf oil spill's impact

Aug 25, 2010
UCF Biologist John Fauth studies threatened coral off the coast of Puerto Rico. Credit: Edwin Hernandez, Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation, University of Puerto Rico

Coral living off the coast of Puerto Rico may provide researchers valuable information about the potential impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

University of Central Florida biologist John Fauth, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists and non-governmental agencies are studying the threatened Elkhorn in the Vega Baja area of Puerto Rico.

While most of the area appears healthy, some coral are suffering from algal overgrowth and disease - problems similar to those the spill could cause off the coast of Florida. Sediment from a nearby construction site and runoff from storm sewers are potential causes for the harm to coral off Puerto Rico's coast.

Fauth says that the same techniques the team used to study the health of the reefs in Vega Baja will be used to determine the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf.

Scientists collect multiple samples that provide information about the enzymes present and the of contaminants found within the coral. Scientists then can determine if there is damage to the coral's cells and analyze sediment samples to learn what contaminants are present on the .

"Our site provides an ideal case study for an environmental assessment that pinpoints probable stressors for coral and determines their source," Fauth said.

The process is time consuming, and each dive includes a long regimen to ensure researchers don't add to the problem.

"Before sampling, our team showered with laboratory soap and did not use any personal care products -- for example, sunscreen -- that could show up in contaminant analyses," Fauth said. "We also cleaned all of our dive gear with lab soap."

It's a comprehensive approach that researchers in the Gulf will likely duplicate as they search for answers, Fauth said.

The cross-disciplinary team included researchers from NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the universities of Central Florida and Puerto Rico, Haereticus Environmental Lab, and Grupo V.I.D.A.S. (Vegabajeños Impulsando Desarrollo Ambiental Sustentable).

Explore further: NOAA establishes 'tipping points' for sea level rise related flooding

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gulf of Mexico oil spill in the Loop Current

May 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists monitoring the US oil spill with ESA's Envisat radar satellite say that it has entered the Loop Current, a powerful conveyor belt that flows clockwise around the Gulf of Mexico ...

Models indicate Gulf spill may be in major current

May 17, 2010

(AP) -- Researchers tracking the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico say computer models show the black ooze may have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, and are sending out a research vessel ...

Recommended for you

New challenges for ocean acidification research

10 hours ago

Over the past decade, ocean acidification has received growing recognition not only in the scientific area. Decision-makers, stakeholders, and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of "the other carbon dioxide ...

Compromises lead to climate change deal

10 hours ago

Earlier this month, delegates from the various states that make up the UN met in Lima, Peru, to agree on a framework for the Climate Change Conference that is scheduled to take place in Paris next year. For ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.