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Why This Matters: Deep-sea corals live at depths up to 10,000 feet and protect a diverse array of marine life including shrimp, crab, and other fish caught and sold for consumption around the world. Without the protections afforded by the fan and feather-shaped corals, this sea life would become scarcer, not only harming ecosystems, but also fishing, trade, and the availability of seafood. Gib Brogan, a campaign manager for Oceana which has been fighting for these protections for 20 years, explains, “a single pass of a fishing net can wipe out a century or a thousand years of growth.” Some corals in the reefs date back to the 1400s; damage to these corals will not be repaired for many generations to come.
A Healing Process
The protections come at a crucial moment for the survival of these deep-sea habitats. The 2010 BP oil spill released damaging oil into the habitats, but subsequent research found that the clean-up efforts may have done even more damage to coral reefs. Dispersants used to remove oil from the waters, Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, have been found to cause more damage to corals than oil alone. Before the 2010 spill, the impacts of dispersants were unknown and untested on sea life, but marine scientist Dennise Ruiz-Ramos says the effects are now obvious, “you can see it visually in the disintegration of the corals.”
A New Frontier
Despite their importance to the ecosystem, science knows very little about deep-sea corals. Until recent developments in undersea research technology, researchers had little ability to examine or take samples of the corals. Now, research is learning much more about this crucial deep-sea life. Some sponges living among deep-sea corals were found to have anti-viral and cancer-fighting properties, lending hope to new medical developments. Experts are still finding deep-sea coral habitats to explore and protect, and expect to find many more; only 0.05 percent of the seafloor has been mapped.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer In Cispatá on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, scientists have calculated just how much carbon a mangrove forest stores. Up until now, that number has treated mangroves like trees on land — missing more than half of their carbon store in the soil under trees. The calculation in Cispatá estimates the […]
Over the last decade, nearly 91% of the sunflower sea star population has been wiped out, landing the species a “critically endangered” categorization last year. The sea stars, which have 24 arms, are an important part of the underwater food web: they keep kelp forests healthy by feeding on sea urchins.
Why This Matters: Between rising temperatures, overfishing, ocean acidification, among other harms, people have thrown the U.S. West Coast marine ecosystem off the balance.
Video gaming experts say that game design is now shifting towards specific environmental issues. Since games are designed by young people, it is not surprising that eco-based storylines like climate change and ocean exploration are coming into vogue. For example, the BBC Blue Planet II nature documentary inspired a video game called Beyond Blue, in which […]
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