This the ability to reproduce, if given time.

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This article was about coral reefs suffering severe injury during the storms off St. John and part of the US Virgin Islands. Scientists discovered this when they traveled there in late November to assess the damage, the first step in understanding the reefs’ recovery. The living tissue on many of the damaged gorgonian corals on a reef off the coast of St. John, has been chipped off or torn off, leaving only the dark nonliving core of the branch. Hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated and wreaked havoc on land when they tore through the Caribbean. Researchers found that some coral colonies lost branches and others were cloaked in harmful algal growth. Coral was left weakened by the hurricanes, were left with ghostly, feather-like strands of bacteria hanging off open wounds where bits of coral had been scraped off. Researchers studied sites where coral colonies had been wiped away by the strong storms. The coral is damaged from these hurricanes through the huge waves that are generated which carry sand and debris such as bits of broken coral, onto the reeds, striking them over and over again. The scientists studied coral in different locations where hurricanes had been throughout the past year, and they said the damage varied by location. One scientist said, ¨In shallow waters, what we found certainly lived up to our expectations-holy, moly this was bad news, but when we went deeper, it became more nuanced. It was still beautiful. There were corals, sea fans and some fish swimming around. Then you would look more closely, and you would see tumbled corals and missing corals in spots where you had seen corals just three months before. There were changes, but there certainly was a tremendous amount still there.¨ The recent hurricanes presented a rare opportunity for researchers to study how corals recover from disasters which was an interesting natural experiment to them. It gave scientific information such as stating the impact that coral reefs have on their environment. Coral reefs have and always will act as homes for wildlife and fish, they generate tourism, and provide food for communities everywhere on Earth. The term reef comes from the colonies they create which rise from the ocean floor. St. John’s has been being studies by these same researchers since 1987 as their are photographs to date it. They’ve used these photos to see how how much the reefs have changed from then until now. Their focus has always been on understanding the balance between hard, stony corals, which form the backbone of ocean reefs, and softer, more flexible gorgonian corals, and it hurricanes add even more work to this challenge. Scientists learned that St. John’s reef is still quite beautiful, populated with an abundance of coral with the ability to reproduce, if given time. Despite these encouraging signs, they learned today’s reefs are much more vulnerable than in past decades, given climate change and other stressors.The effect of the article on me is personal as I have seen real coral reefs before off the coast of the island of Maui in Hawaii. From my own experiences, I could tell the reefs were changing, but they were still beautiful. I knew the reefs had changed because my parents had said so as they remembered the reefs being much more colorful when they last snorkeled in around the same area of Hawaii. Knowing that the reefs used to be much more healthier and beautiful, saddens me, and I know if I lived anywhere along the coasts, I would do all I could to protect their environment so people in the future generations could enjoy them. We always see the bright and colorful images of coral reefs, and that isn’t quit how they all are. They may not ever be as healthy and colorful as they were before, but we need to preserve them for what they are now. Reefs affect every continent in this whole world as we are surrounded by gorgeous reefs on our coastlines. If the reefs change, this also affects their ecosystems they are in and the living things that rely on them. For coral reefs, now, hurricanes are like wildfires on forests because they cause extensive damage, but then the populations start to recover. In the future of the reefs, scientists are wondering if they will disappear or in what form they will exist. As time goes on, researchers will study how quickly coral recruits repopulate damaged sites, and whether injured colonies bounce back or die. In the future, off of the coast of St. John’s southern coast, scientists will revisit many of these spots to see if they are recovering. This article relates to an interest of mine as I love learning about sea life, especially endangered sea life such as coral reefs. I thought it was kind of neat to learn a bit more about how the hurricanes impacted life under water. I never really thought about the impact hurricanes could have under water, I only thought about the impact it had on land. This was an informative writing to me because I never knew that coral reefs were being damaged during hurricanes, I just knew they were being damaged because of humans not natural disasters too. This was also very convincing because it gave enough information about how the coral reefs have changed on the certain islands whose coral reefs got hit because they had been studying the reefs before the disasters, and they could see the after effects. Here is a quote from the article that goes into further detail about how important this experiment is and shows that some people care: “It’s an interesting natural experiment because you could not, in good conscience, conduct such an experiment on your own as a scientist, and it is sad to see these beautiful places in the ocean damaged so severely. But we can learn from this — it gives us the chance to better understand the process of recovery.” -LaskerI did not need more information or data and numbers to be convinced about the opinion and stance of the author who wrote this article because I feel as if this is true. This article made me think about and wonder what future coral reefs will look like, like what one scientist said, what form will they be in? Is there anything we can do to help these coral reefs from suffering? More research needs to be done to understand how storms, warming waters and ocean acidification can alter the composition of reefs and whether these changes are permanent or short-lived. That is what is next for research in this area. Scientists still have many questions about the recovering process, and scientists know very little about how they change and recover after disasters. I just hope what is next for the future of reefs, leads to them becoming healthier and helping the ecosystems around them just as we enjoy their existence and beauty.

Categories: Climate Change


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