News / Industry News & Events / Scientists take advantage of hurricane damage (01/09/18)

Scientists take advantage of hurricane damage


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Coral reef researchers are studying how this ecosystem recovers after recent storms.

In 2017, hurricanes Maria and Irma caused widespread destruction on a number of Caribbean islands.

The coral reef ecosystems were also injured during the storms, providing a rare opportunity for scientists to study how they recover from damage.

Hurricanes have tremendous destructive potential and can devastate a reefscape, says Dr Howard Lasker from University at Buffalo. We surveyed only a small fraction of the reefs on St. John [part of the U.S. Virgin Islands], but all were affected by the hurricanes.

The research team found that the destruction varied according to location, with deeper and more protected sites faring better than expected.

In shallower waters the destruction was clear. Large stony corals were toppled; at some sites rocks had rolled across the reef like bowling balls; and sea fans, sea plumes and sponges were ripped from the ocean floor, with many washed up on beaches, says Lasker.

The team will continue to monitor the reef system and how it recovers.

Since they first started observing the coral reefs in the late 1980s, they have seen a change in the type of species present, with a change from large stony corals to smaller, weedy species.