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Ocean Research


August 2013 Issue

Seafarer Exploration Begins Excavating Florida Shipwreck
Seafarer Exploration Corp. (Tampa, Florida) has crossed the final hurdles relating to the proposed excavation of a shipwreck site located off Lantana Beach, Florida, with the receipt of a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and an underwater easement agreement from the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. The permit is a five-year approval ending on June 18th, 2018.

The site has recently been surveyed using a Geometrics (San Jose, California) G-882 cesium-vapor marine magnetometer, and this survey work showed compelling evidence that a large part of the ship lies buried in a relatively compact area.

Having completed phase one of the mapping survey and underwater video, Seafarer is now beginning phase two, known as digging and identifying the wreck.

Items found and documented on this site in past explorations by third parties suggest the wreck might be a French or Spanish ship from the late 1600s.

Scientists Dub Life Growing In Ocean Trash as 'Plastisphere'
The masses of plastic debris that float over large areas of the world's oceans have become new ecological communities that scientists have named the 'Plastisphere.' A report in Environmental Science & Technology suggests that these novel habitats in the north Atlantic Ocean may harbor potential disease-causing microbes.

Erik Zettler of the Sea Education Association, Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Linda Amaral-Zettler of the Marine Biological Laboratory explain that plastic has become the number one form of ocean debris, causing serious concerns about its impact on the health of ocean communities. The damaging effects that plastic in the oceans have on fish, birds and other seafaring animals have previously been described in detail by other researchers. But scientists had yet to explore what plastic does to some of the smallest ocean inhabitants.

Research by Zettler, Mincer and Amaral-Zettler led to the discovery that tiny organisms from algae to bacteria thrive on plastic debris, transforming it into rich 'microbial reefs' that are distinct from communities in surrounding water. Though some inhabitants may be degrading the plastic, it still provides a relatively stable home for microbes.

Plastic debris could be a health risk for invertebrates, fish or possibly humans, though. The Plastisphere harbors a group of bacteria called Vibrio. Some Vibrio species can cause illnesses, such as cholera, when they come in contact with humans.

Gulf Faces Potential Record Dead Zone in Summer 2013
NOAA predicts a record-size dead zone in the Gulf this summer, stretching from South Texas all the way to Alabama.''

Dead zones form in late spring and last through summer, typically peaking in July and August and breaking up in the fall.

The dead zone is caused when nitrogen-based fertilizer washes off farm fields in the Midwest corn-belt and ends up in the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf.'Just as nitrogen-based fertilizer makes corn grow, it also stimulates the growth of plants in the water, mainly algae. The algae bloom and eventually die and decay. This process removes oxygen from the water, resulting in oxygen-depleted water where marine life cannot live.'

This year's dead zone is expected to be as large as 8,561 square miles along the Gulf coast which is a rich breeding ground for fish, shrimp, oysters and crab. It is an area that accounts for about 18 percent of the total commercial seafood sold in the United States. In particular, shrimp and oyster supplies are heavily concentrated in the Gulf, making the seafood industry an important component of the Gulf Coast economy.

Last summer was one of the smallest dead zones on record at 2,889 square miles. Experts with NOAA say the drought in the Midwest last year kept runoff out of the Mississippi River. This year will be just the opposite. Heavy rainfall in the Midwest this spring led to flood conditions, with Minnesota and Illinois experiencing one of the wettest springs on record. All of that flooding, along with bigger corn crops, means more fertilizer flowing into the Gulf.

Levantine Sea Study in Cyprus
The benthic ecosystems of the Levantine Sea are being studied by the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC) of The Cyprus Institute in collaboration with Enalia Physis Environmental Research Centre. This sea is the warmest and most oligotrophic part of the Mediterranean.

Monitoring of environmental conditions and the coralligenous communities, which had not been studied before in Cyprus, commenced by placing Star-Oddi's (Gardabaer, Iceland) Starmon mini temperature recorders at different locations around the island to monitor changes in seawater temperature (SWT) and how coral growth responds to those changes. For example, changes in the density of the skeleton associated with the changing of seasons (e.g., winter/summer) show growth bands, which are determined by X-radiography and CAT scans.

Another important application of the Starmon mini took place during the 2012 bleaching and mortality of corals off the Cyprus coasts. Due to higher-than-average SWT in August/September 2012, corals in shallow waters (down to 10 meters) lost their photosynthetic symbionts (and their pigments), and necrotic tissue left areas of the colonies dead and white. The majority of the bleached corals did not recover and died soon after, exposing areas of bare skeleton. SWT, measured by Starmon minis installed between coral colonies, allowed correlation of the warming period with the progression of the coral bleaching and mortality event.

The'next project involves attaching a Star-Oddi DST CTD logger to a continuous plankton recorder (CPR) device. The CPR will sample the plankton of waters between Cyprus and its neighboring countries. In this European project (PERSEUS), planktonic identification and analysis will be combined with the DST CTD data to detect possible correlations. This will also include invasive or non-native species migrations and changing environmental conditions.


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