Coral Reefs in Crisis: The Louisiana Connection

By: Christine Wendling

 

Just off the coast of Texas and Louisiana lies the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which is home to two coral reefs right here in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of their

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Coral bleaching in the Caribbean.NOAA

remote location, the East and West Flower Garden Banks are some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world with over 50 percent living coral cover. 

 

At least half a billion people worldwide rely directly on healthy coral reefs for their food and livelihood. Twenty-five percent of the marine life in the ocean depends on coral reefs. And, organisms that live on coral reefs are major sources of new pharmaceuticals, including treatments for cancer, arthritis, asthma, AIDS, and other diseases. However, corals are being damaged by coral bleaching, a phenomenon in which corals lose their symbiotic algae, and thus their color, as a result of heat stress. 

From 2014-2017 a global bleaching event impacted many coral reefs around the world, including our own East Flower Garden Bank. In 2016, the most severe bleaching event ever recorded at East Flower Garden Bank affected approximately 6.5 acres of the national marine sanctuary. 

 

Several LSU faculty members have been involved in coral reef research for nearly half a century, and now LSU's College of the Coast and Environment (CC&E) is organizing a lecture series to discuss this phenomenon. “Coral Reefs in Crisis” will be held on March 1-2, in the Dalton J. Woods Auditorium at the Energy, Coast, & Environment Building. 

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A purple-spined sea urchin (arbacia punctulat) at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

The event will include a screening of the award-winning documentary “Chasing Coral” and presentations by experts from the movie. 

 

For more information and to register for this free event, visit http://lsu.edu/cce/lsucorals.php

Click here to read NOAA’s 2016 Annual Report on the bleaching at the East Flower Garden Bank: https://nmssanctuaries.blob.core.windows.net/sanctuaries-prod/media/docs/long-term-monitoring-east-west-fgb-2016-annual-report.pdf