How scientists are saving Florida’s endangered coral reefs from extreme heat
Record-breaking ocean temperatures are killing Florida's coral reefs. Water temperatures in the 90s are causing bleaching in the Florida Keys, where algae that gives coral much of its color is being expelled, leaving coral without its major source of food.
In the past week, the University of South Florida's Florida Institute of Oceanography’s Keys Marine Laboratory (KML) has transferred 1,500 coral specimens from offshore nurseries to onshore tanks.
Their laboratory has 60 tanks ranging from 40 to 1,000 gallons. They can house thousands more as the coral bleaching event is expected to continue.
“For years we have been developing the infrastructure capacity to support reef restoration efforts that enable KML to temporarily house corals during emergencies such as this,” said laboratory director Cynthia Lewis. “Typically, water temperatures at this time of year are in the mid 80s, but we are already recording temperatures of 90 degrees. It is very alarming.”
Keri O'Neil is the senior coral specialist at the Florida Aquarium, which is partnering with the laboratory. She just came back from a trip to the Florida Keys, and tells WUSF's Steve Newborn about some of the new ways scientists are working to make sure Florida's coral reefs last long into the future.