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Battered By Bleaching, Florida’s Reefs Now Face Mysterious Disease

Erinn Muller is science director at the Mote Marine Lab in the Florida Keys

At Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, Joey Mandara is like a baby sitter. But instead of children he tends to thousands of baby corals, growing in large, shallow tanks called raceways. Mote has been doing this work for five years, raising corals from embryos into adult colonies, then planting them on Florida’s reefs. Now, the emergence of a new, debilitating coral disease makes his work more important than ever.

In one raceway, Mandara says fragments of brain coral have grown quickly in this controlled environment.

“The brain coral were eight fragments,” he says. “And over time, they’ve grown out and have now fused into each other, becoming one coral that will hopefully over time become sexually mature.”

Mote lab’s science director Erinn...

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Florida now more vulnerable to storm surges

Divers gardening

As we begin to piece together the damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, scientists are pointing to an environmental factor that may have made the storm’s impact worse: the ongoing loss of coral on the state’s increasingly threatened barrier reef.

At 360 miles long, the Florida Reef Tract is the third-largest barrier reef in the world, stretching from the Florida Keys up to Martin County. But as The Washington Post reported just a few months ago, the reef is in big trouble — scientists estimate that less than 10 percent of it is covered with living coral, the result of a long history of damage that, most recently, includes warming waters and back-to-back bleaching events in recent years.

Now, scientists say these losses may have weakened the reef’s storm buffer.

Research demo...

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Divers taught gardening to save Florida’s Reef

Divers gardening

The beauty of south Florida’s coastline isn’t just skin-deep. Below the water lies a crucial habitat of coral, home to hundreds of species of marine plants and animals. But the beauty of the only tropical reef system in the continental U.S. is vanishing.

“Over the past 30 to 40 years, we’ve seen a drastic decline in coral cover… and it’s mostly been due to climate change,” said Stephanie Schopmeyer, a University of Miami marine biologist who’s working to save the species.

In just one decade, the reef lost nearly half its coral cover. The system stretches more than 300 miles along Florida’s coast.

CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez and his team set out with Schopmeyer to see the Rescue a Reef program in action...

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Florida’s Coral Reef Is Disintegrating

Florida Reef

Florida’s coral reef, the only tropical reef in the continental United States, is disintegrating faster than scientists predicted and in a way that will accelerate as the oceans become more acidic, according to new research published Monday.

University of Miami scientists called the collapse of the reef’s limestone framework, a critical habitat for fish, “unprecedented” and “cause for alarm.”

“Lots of scientists think that ocean acidification is not going to be a problem until 2050 or 2060,” says Chris Langdon, a marine biology professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “This is happening now. We’ve just lost 35 years we thought we had to turn things around.”

Coral reefs around the world have been in decline fo...

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