Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ocean Science Lecture-HBOI: Reefs

Ocean Science Lecture Series: Brian Lapointe, Ph.D. “Reefs, Wreckers, and Shipwrecks in the Florida Keys

This portion of the FAU/Harbor Branch 2010 Ocean Science Lecture Series goes along a little bit with the episode of Undersea Explorer discussed back in January about artificial reefs in Canada. The talk has some very interesting historical facts presented in association with the biological aspect. The speaker in this film covers the Wrecking Era and several wrecks going back hundreds of years. This lecture does focus on the Florida Keys, but the information can be transferred to many other areas since the research is expansive. The historical background is very interesting, and the research is both relevant and useful.

If you know you want to see it, then skip straight to the video posted on You Tube:

First, Dr. Lapointe defines the term “reef” in a way that gives a clue into the history of the word itself. There is a mining reference definition, and a nautical one as well, but the first one is perhaps the most interesting “n. 1. A narrow ridge of rocks or sand, often of coral debris, at or near the surface of the water.” WOW! Does that not sound completely different from everything you imagine when someone says “reef”? Maybe that is why I prefer an encyclopedia over the dictionary – it provides a more detailed description (often with pictures!)

The first study on coral reefs was actually held hundreds of years ago in order to find a way to reduce corals as they were considered serious navigational hazards. In the era of modern coral research, it has been learned that 98% of the coral reefs have died in the Florida Keys – this is the definition of a mass extinction. Now, eco-tourism and fisheries in the Keys are relying heavily on artificial reefs to survive… not to mention the marine animals themselves. This type of information is how marine preserves, like John Pennecamp, came to be. That particular sanctuary was created in 1974 and was the first of its kind in the Florida Keys. There was degradation of the coral ecosystems noted since the 1960’s, and it is STILL getting worse. (Just wait for the Oil Spill to get there. Whoo-hoo.) It is important to understand this decline is not strictly from over fishing. What goes into the water from the mainland of Florida has such a serious impact and in the past did not garner the attention it so desperately needed.

I have a great appreciation for the PowerPoint included in Brian Lapointe’s talk because he took the time to include many photographs for reference, and since he has been doing this research for many years, some of the vibrancy and life seen in the photos no longer exists in reality. SIDE NOTE: This is why is it always important to take photos wherever you go and on whatever adventures you may have; many of the amazing things we experience may not be there in the future.

If you want a nice decade by decade synopsis about the condition of the water quality and the health of grass beds and coral reefs in the Florida Keys, this is really the lecture you have been waiting to hear. Also, if you have a research project or paper that includes almost anything about the marine environment, then this will provide some great information. I personally like Brian, but will admit that if you aren’t into the science or the history, he might lose you in the middle of the lecture. But hang on for the artificial reef stuff!! This is around the 35 min. mark in the video. There is great footage of The Vandenberg Project – a.k.a. the “Swiss-cheesing” of a ship that is now a successful artificial reef.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) there is a lot of history, so if you want just the biological stuff, then you should move the video forward to the pictures that capture your attention.

While artificial reefs serve as a wonderful form of aid to the ecosystem, the economy, and our history… I can’t help but worry that some people will focus on this as being a suitable alternative to simply protecting the natural habitats that struggle to remain. Can’t we have both?

Happy Mother’s Day and try to find thoughtful and sustainable gifts when you show Mom how much you care,


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