Here's what the Cassiopea xamachana jellyfish looks like. Photo taken at aquarium in Loro Parque
Here's what the Cassiopea xamachana jellyfish looks like. Photo taken at aquarium in Loro Parque

How upside-down jellyfish can make the water sting

In some tropical waters like the Florida Keys mangrove forests, for snorkellers to stay safe, it’s not enough to not touch anything. It may not be a good idea to enter the water in the first place.

That’s because sometimes it seems that the water itself can sting, causing rashes on a snorkeller's skin.

Tourists in Bali have carved name into coral

Bali coral deliberately vandalised

Photographic evidence has been posted on Facebook showing that names have been carved into coral at Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida, and it has enraged social media users.

What’s wrong with some people? Seriously, do they need to scratch their name on this beautiful coral. Unbelievable!

It is thought that tourists are responsible. The Bali Sun stated that one post observed “how can you be so stupid?”

Andrew A Shantz places an enclosure over corals on the sea floor at Florida Keys.

Selective fishing of larger parrotfish lets algae flourish

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered that when fishermen selectively catch large and medium-sized parrotfish at coral reefs facing decline due to climate change, algae has a better chance of growing and overtaking the corals.

Nonetheless, according to the research, the reef’s biomass is maintained. This is because even with less of the large and medium-sized parrotfish, there would be many smaller parrotfish that would take their place.

Offshore coral reefs are healthier

Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Centro de Investigaciones Marinas—Universidad de La Habana (CIM-UH) have discovered that offshore coral reefs that are also protected tend to be healthier than nearshore ones.

In the study, seawater from 25 reefs in Cuba and the Florida Keys in the US were tested for nutrients and other parameters that would give researchers a glimpse into the microbial community present.

Using sounds of healthy reefs to attract young fish

Healthy coral reefs are full of sounds of life—with the whistles, pops and grunts of fish, the crackle of snapping shrimp, etc. These sounds travel out through the ocean currents, and “advertise” to young fish to come and settle down at this particular reef ecosystem.

However, when reefs are degraded or dying, the environment falls silent. Literally.

As a result, young fish do not find their way to such reefs, and this exasperates the reef's dire situation.

Coral larvae being released into the water column, off Maui in 2003

Split spawning can give coral reefs a second chance

When investigating whether corals that split their spawning over multiple months are more successful at spreading their offspring across different reefs, researchers discovered that split spawning can indeed improve the coral reef's resilience.

The findings of the study was published in the Nature Communications journal recently.

Green-coloured encrusting sponge is well distributed within the coral reef system of Palinurus Rock

Large coral reef discovered off Iraq

Joint expeditions performed by scientific scuba divers from MSC Basrah (Iraq) and SDC Freiberg (Germany) carried out in September 2012 and in May 2013, revealed the existence of a true live coral reef in Iraqi coastal waters for the first time ever.

The Iraqi coast at the northern end of the Persian Gulf is dominated by the large swampy river delta of the rivers Euphrates, Tigris and Karun, merging into the Shatt al-Arab that represents the main outflow in the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

Iraq reef
Electron micrograph of Bacteriophages (vira) in the process of infecting a cell. This is not the virus or bacteriophage in question but a generic photo

A vaccine for corals

White syndrome' is a name given to a number of diseases exhibiting similar symptoms, such as such as white pox, white band and white plague disease. The causes of white syndrome are in many cases unknown. White syndrome has increased in abundance 20-fold in the last five years, with increases on inner, mid-shelf and outer-shelf reefs along the length of the Great Barrier Reef. It also had a major impact on Caribbean reefs. In areas of the Great Barrier Reef surveyed, white syndrome, along with skeletal eroding band, was the most common disease.

(Filephoto) Butterfly fish

A Holistic Approach to Coral Reef Health

However, at locations were there was excessive adverse impact (like pollution), the corals did not recover fully, even after eight years.

“You can imagine that when you are recovering from a sickness, it will take a lot longer if you don’t eat well or get enough rest,” said Jessica Carilli, a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

“Similarly, a coral organism that must be constantly trying to clean itself from excess sediment particles will have a more difficult time recovering after a stressful condition like bleaching.”

Disease and overfishing also affected coral health. In places where there is overfishing, the population of bigger fishes like groupers are either significantly reduced or have vanished.

In the absence of these predatory fishes, other fish species thrive. One such species is the butterflyfish, which feed on coral and appear to be responsible for disease transmission amongst the corals.

In a study, scientists compared seven Marine Protected Areas [MPAs] where fishing had been banned for at least five years, and another seven neighbouring sites with similar diversity.

They discovered that the corals at the latter sites suffered more diseases; in some cases, the difference was twice as many. In addition, many butterflyfish were found at the sites where fishing was allowed, leading to a higher incidence of coral disease.