These are the top blog posts from the Marine Ecology class, BIO376. Congratulations to the authors!
Joanne Nuque: Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef: Can acquired thermal tolerance save the corals?
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world with the largest coral reef on the planet—so large that it can be seen from outer space (see Figure 1) (Australia’s Great Natural Wonder, n.d.). Aside from being a popular tourist attraction, the reef is a very rich and biologically diverse ecosystem that is home to more than 3000 reef systems, 400 different kinds of coral, 1500 species of tropical fish, 200 bird species, 20 species of reptiles such as sea turtles, and many more marine animals (About the Great Barrier reef, n.d.; Australia’s Great Natural Wonder, n.d.). The GBR acts as an important refuge, breeding ground, and nursery ground for many marine animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria (About the Great Barrier reef, n.d; Hoegh-Guldberg, 2010; Veron et al., 2009).
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Matthew Chan: Current management strategies ineffective in rehabilitating coral reef ecosystems
Coral reefs are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, currently in precipitous global decline. The loss of coral cover can have a large effect on marine ecosystems, as coral reefs are a habitat for a diverse array of marine species and provide a multitude of ecosystem services. Coral reefs are being lost due to a number of reasons, including disease, overfishing, pollution and climate change (Alvarez-Filip et al. 2013). In the past 30 years, over 50% of global coral reefs are estimated to have been lost, while anthropogenic loss has happened as far back as the 17th century (Green et al. 2008). To combat coral reef losses, governments have enacted policies in an attempt to protect coral ecosystems and increase coral cover, but they have not always been successful.
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Victoria LaRosa: Mangrove Deforestation
When I was in the 2nd grade we did a science experiment, we were all given styrofoam cups with soil, we placed a seed in the dirt, added some water and left it underneath the classroom window. After a few weeks, seedlings began to sprout and eventually a flower bloomed. These were the fundamentals we were taught when it came to plants, but there is so much more. Plants can be picky when it comes to where they want to grow, dandelions seem like they can grow everywhere, but I can never find a four-leaf clover. This also occurs in tree species, pine trees are abundant, but species like mangroves only grow in areas no other tree could. The value trees have on all life on earth is incredible, but how can we quantify the destructive force deforestation continues to have, especially on local communities? Mangrove forests have declined substantially in the last 50 years and the repercussions could be extinction if intervention is not imminent. Let’s dive into mangroves and explore the impacts these trees have in the areas they inhabit.
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Vanessa Nhan: Seabirds are threatened by marine plastic debris
Over the expansive oceans that cover the majority of our planet soars majestic seabirds that have evolved to live almost exclusively over the open water. Albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels are only a few examples of seabirds that have managed to adapt to this type of lifestyle that many other organisms cannot endure. Yet, with increasing anthropogenic input of plastic and other waste into our oceans, it raises concern as to how seabirds, amongst many other marine organisms, may be affected.
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Tamara Scepanovic: Understanding The Unknown World of Deep-Water Corals
Some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth are made up of corals. Coral reefs, often referred to as “underwater rainforests”, are home to over a quarter of all marine species despite occupying less than 1% of the seafloor. Each reef is made up of multiple different species of coral which provide shelter, food and breeding grounds for the surrounding wildlife. Unfortunately, reefs are getting smaller with over 50% of coral reefs showing signs of damage and over 20% being damaged beyond repair (Wilkinson, 2009).
Michael Tran: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch the Issues and Solutions
Ocean currents are controlled by the Earth’s wind patterns, forces created by the Earth’s rotation and its landmasses1. Wind pushes the surface water which causes it to move in the direction that the wind is heading. Sometimes they form circular currents due to the Coriolis effect1. The earths rotation causes it to shift the surface current by an angle of 45 degrees1. In the Northern hemisphere this causes the ocean current to rotate in a clockwise motion1. These create large rotating currents commonly known as gyres. The main ocean gyre I want to focus on is the Northern Pacific Gyre which is home to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) as shown in Figure 1. The GPGP is made of two patches the main one focused on in this blog post is the Eastern Garbage Patch3.
Michael Chapuis: Anthropogenic Threat to Seagrass and Mitigation of Nitrogen Inputs
Often overlooked when compared to the attention garnered by coral reefs and coastal mangrove forests, seagrass meadows are critical marine ecosystems currently facing considerable anthropogenic stressors. Seagrass is composed of approximately 60 different species (Devault & Pascaline, 2013) and is found in tropical and temperate coastal waters around the world (Figure 1) (Duarte & Chiscano, 1999). Seagrasses are flowering plants that anchor their roots in sandy substrata and complete their entire lifecycle under the water surface unlike many aquatic flowering plants, which, at certain times, need to penetrate the water surface (Devault & Pascaline, 2013). While some species can be found at depths of up to 70 meters, the majority of the 19.9 billion tons of seagrass biomass (Devault & Pascaline, 2013) is found within 10 meters of the surface (Grech et al., 2012). Close proximity to the coast however, makes seagrass particularly sensitive to light inputs, eutrophication, and other anthropogenic disturbances
Alice Cerghet: Green Sea Turtle Human Exploitation, Conservation and Rebound Potential
The tropic and sub-tropic seas display an astonishing range of organisms inhabiting many diverse ecosystems. Of these many organisms, one which is notable for nesting around shallow water and tourist beach locations has been Chelonia mydas – the green sea turtle. This turtle species is one of the most prevalent marine organisms in the tropics and mostly grazes off plant material in adult stages, maintaining a herbivorous diet (Balazs & Chaloupka, 2004). Green sea turtles undergo a shifting life history as their aging demands changes in habitat for feeding and nesting habits (Arthur et al., 2008).
Tommy Roberto Lin Weng: The disappearance of mangrove ecosystems and how the problem is being approached
What is a mangrove? A mangrove is a halophytic shrub or tree species that is located in coastal intertidal locations and there are around 40 genera with around 70 species which has been recognized (Friess 2016). However, the term mangrove can also be used to refer to a mangrove ecosystem or forest. Mangroves can be found in tropical and subtropical coasts, ranging as far North up to Japan or Florida and as South as Australia and cover up to around 138 thousand square kilometers worldwide (Friess 2016). Unfortunately, Canada does not have any mangrove forests, which is why many Canadians may not be acquainted with this ecosystem or the problems that mangrove forests have been facing. Hopefully, this blog article can introduce the concept of mangrove forests to Canadians and raise awareness of some of the problems these forests are currently facing.