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Pollution threatens coral health by preventing lesions from healing, UCF study shows

Coral tissue damage that normally heals on its own will not mend when the colonies are near pollution sources on land that release industrial chemicals, fuel oils and other contaminants, a University of Central Florida biologist and several colleagues have found.

UCF associate professor of biology John Fauth and scientists from the National Coral Reef Institute, Broward County Department of Environmental Protection, the College of Charleston and Nova Southeastern University tracked how quickly coral regenerated lost tissue from lesions they created while collecting samples.

Scientists have long been concerned about declining coral reef health off the southeastern Florida coast, in the Florida Keys and worldwide. The World Research Institute's Reefs at Risk program has listed coastal development and treated wastewater discharge as chronic problems along Florida's southeast coast.

The loss of coral harms natural reef ecosystems and can hurt Florida's tourism economy if divers decide to go elsewhere. Reefs also help to protect coastal areas from hurricanes, as they break up storm surge in the same manner that sea walls do.

"We're losing places where animals can hide and fish can feed," Fauth said. "And reefs where people dive are being degraded."

Tissue samples from mustard hill coral were taken from eight Broward County sites, including near-shore and offshore locations at each of four sites: a City of Hollywood treated wastewater outfall, the Port Everglades inlet mouth, a second outfall next to a mouth of the Hillsborough Inlet and control sites away from outfalls and inlets.

Fauth and his colleagues used the equivalent of blood tests on humans to identify likely causes of low coral vitality near wastewater discharge pipes and the Port Everglades inlet. Coral that were growing near both areas were unable to repair tissue damage, while coral colonies at control sites healed the small areas where the sci
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Contact: Tom Evelyn
tevelyn@mail.ucf.edu
407-823-5988
University of Central Florida
18-Jul-2006


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