Got this from Jesse ...
A cold snap earlier this month killed or bleached significant amounts of coral in the waters off South Florida and the Florida Keys, according to an analysis this week by Nature Conservancy scientists.
“About 50 to 70 percent of the entire coral reef is dead in the upper Keys,” said Meaghan Johnson, marine science coordinator with the Nature Conservancy.
The culprit was the 12 consecutive days of extremely cold weather from Jan. 2-14 in Florida, which included a near-record cold air temperature of 42 degrees in Key West on Jan. 11. Johnson said the water temperatures in some parts of the Keys during that time plummeted into the frigid upper 40s and lower 50s, far below typical lows of the upper 60s and lower 70s.
Although coral bleaching and death is most frequently associated with unusually warm water temperatures, coral also can’t withstand water temperatures below 60 degrees. Below that temperature, coral bleaching occurs when the coral undergoes stress and loses its symbiotic algae. Prolonged cold stress can result in coral death.
Unfortunately, the coral that was bleached during the cold snap will eventually die, said Johnson.
Other marine animals, such as manatees, turtles, sponges, and fish, also died or were injured in Florida due to the recent intense cold snap.
This is the first time since January 1977 that a cold-water bleaching and die-off has occurred in south Florida, according to the conservancy. That was the winter that snow was reported in Miami for the only time in its history.
Johnson reported that science divers from 13 federal and state agencies and non-governmental and academic organizations will continue to survey waters off South Florida and the Keys over the next few weeks to assess the health of the remaining coral.
By Doyle Rice