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Marine Resources


December 2013 Issue

US Interior Department Launches $100 Million Atlantic Coast Grant
On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell launched a $100 million Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program to fund science-based solutions to restore natural areas along the Atlantic Coast, helping to deliver on the Barack Obama administration's commitment in the Climate Action Plan to make local communities more resilient against future storms.

'By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resilience of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits,' said Jewell.

The grant program will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which has begun accepting proposals. The program will fund innovative projects by states, local communities, tribes, nonprofit organizations and other partners.

The Department of the Interior has already invested $480 million in Hurricane Sandy response and recovery efforts since the storm hit last October.

Oyster Reefs Can Be Restored By Electrical Charging of Seawater
Researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi have refined a way to create oyster reef by charging seawater with electricity. This can restore, maintain and protect oyster reefs in Coastal Bend bays and coastwide in Texas. It is a project that could hold the key to replenishing a key Gulf Coast ecosystem.

In some areas of the Gulf of Mexico, oyster reefs have declined nearly 90 percent over the last 130 years, jeopardizing the well-being of several Gulf Coast industries, the infrastructure that supports them, and the residents who depend on them.

'Oysters are an important ecological and economic resource,' said Dr. Paul Zimba, director of the Center for Coastal Studies at A&M-Corpus Christi. 'They create habitats for fish and shellfish, filter and clean bay waters, protect shorelines from erosion, and are a valued commercial fishery element.'

While electrically charging water to create artificial reef is not a new concept, Zimba and his team performed lab studies to determine exactly how much electrical current was needed.

'We knew carbonate accumulation could be stimulated using electrical currents,' said Zimba. 'But there wasn't enough research done on specific polarity, voltage and electrical current types needed to maximize growth.'

Zimba's team evaluated polarity, voltage and electrical current to identify the conditions under which artificial oyster or hard bottom substrate habitat could be created and to determine correct current type and voltage to maximize reef formation. Zimba found that the growth was strongly affected by current type and polarity, making it important to have just the right mix. Once they were able to perfect the formation of artificial reef in a laboratory setting, a site in Corpus Christi Bay was used to test this system consisting of structures built from rebar and charged with solar power.

'After one month we had a solid community covering the original material,' said Zimba. 'Our hope is that this technology is used for restoration of reef communities, replacement of hard bottom habitat to prevent sediment re-suspension, and aquaculture.'

The researchers monitored the growth on the rebar and the environment around the formations. They found no negative impact on aquatic or avian populations from the electrical current.

Arcadia Grants $5 Million To Oceana for Conservation
Oceana has received a grant from U.K.-based Arcadia Fund. The funding of $5 million will be paid over a period of five years to support Oceana's campaigns to protect biodiversity in the world's oceans. This grant will enable Oceana to achieve its campaign goals in habitat and marine life protection.

Oceana has selected multiyear goals based, in part, on biological importance and feasibility of success. With the Arcadia funding, Oceana will focus on increasing by 30 percent the amount of European marine areas that are protected by national and/or regional governments, with a special focus on Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Poland; protecting more than 50,000 square miles of U.S. seafloor habitat, including Bering Sea canyons and skate nurseries, critical habitat for North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles and habitat in the Western Aleutian Islands for the endangered Steller sea lions; closing newly identified rich and fragile Chilean marine habitats to bottom trawling and creating new or expanded marine reserves in many of the rich seafloor habitats along Chile's long coastline, including surrounding Easter Island and the Juan Fernandez Island; and expanding Oceana's campaigns to restore marine biodiversity to new parts of Latin America and tropical Asia.

Coral Reefs Could Survive To End of Century
Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study funded by NOAA. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred.

Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral bleaching, in which reef-building corals eject algae living inside their tissues. Corals bleach when oceans warm 1 to 2° C above normal summertime temperatures. Because those algae supply the coral with most of its food, prolonged bleaching and associated disease often kills corals.

The study explores a range of possible coral adaptive responses to thermal stress previously identified by the scientific community. It suggests that coral reefs may be more resilient than previously thought due to past studies that did not consider effects of possible adaptation.

The study projected that, through genetic adaptation, the reefs could reduce the currently projected rate of temperature-induced bleaching by 20 to 80 percent of levels expected by the year 2100, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.


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