New Marine Species Discovered in South Pacific

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An international team (including researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s National Coral Reef Institute, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, the California Academy of Sciences and the National Botanical Gardens of Ireland) recently found a treasure trove of new species in the Madang Lagoon in Papua New Guinea. “In the Madang Lagoon, we went a half mile out off the leading edge of the active Australian Plate and were in 6,000 meters of water,” said Jim Thomas, Ph.D., a researcher at Nova Southeastern University’s National Coral Reef Institute in Hollywood, Fla. “It was once believed there were no reefs on the north coast of Papua New Guinea since there were no shallow bays and lagoons typical of most coral reef environments. But there was lots of biodiversity to be found.” read more

Study shows that herbivorous reef fish not “generalist” allege consumers, but are selective

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 Using underwater video cameras to record fish feeding on South Pacific coral reefs, scientists have found that herbivorous fish can be picky eaters – a trait that could spell trouble for endangered reef systems. In a study done at the Fiji Islands, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers learned that just four species of herbivorous fish were primarily responsible for removing common and potentially harmful seaweeds on reefs – and that each type of seaweed is eaten by a different fish species. The research demonstrates that particular species, and certain mixes of species, are potentially critical to the health of reef systems. read more

American Samoa Steps Up Conservation Efforts

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The governor of American Samoa recently signed an executive order banning the catching of all shark species, humphead wrasse fish and bumphead parrotfish in territorial waters. Governor Togiola stated that the order was based on the advice of marine scientists and fisheries managers under the leadership of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources. “These species are so depleted that any further loss will threaten their survival in our waters in our territory. A recent study found that American Samoa only has 48 percent of the sharks that it should. And this executive order I have just signed was put in place to help protect and preserve these central, keystone species.” read more

74% of world’s coral reefs predicted to experience annual bleaching events by 2045, study predicts

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 A study published February 24 in Nature Climate Change described how researchers used the latest emissions scenarios and climate models to show how varying levels of carbon emissions are likely to result in more frequent and severe coral bleaching events.  If carbon emissions stay on the current path, most of the world’s coral reefs (74 percent) are projected to experience coral bleaching conditions annually by 2045, results of the study show. Around a quarter of coral reefs are likely to experience bleaching events annually five or more years earlier than the median year, and these reefs in northwestern Australia, Papau New Guinea, and some equatorial Pacific islands like Tokelau, may require urgent attention, researchers warn. read more

Crown-of-Thorn Seastars On a Roll of Destruction in French Polynesia

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 The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is the greatest natural threat to coral populations. Outbreaks of the species occur periodically in the Indo-Pacific ocean and lead to the devastation of entire reefs, as is observed in French Polynesia. The archipelago has been suffering from a new population explosion of the predatory starfish since 2004. It is one of the most intense and devastating outbreaks ever recorded.   The reasons for the outbreak remain unclear, as the causes identified in Australia (excessive rainfall increases nutrients from land-based sinks causing increase in algae) doe not seem to exist. read more