Concept: Florida Keys
Acute catastrophic events can cause significant damage to marine environments in a short time period and may have devastating long-term impacts. In April 2010 the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon (DWH) offshore oil rig exploded, releasing an estimated 760 million liters of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This study examines the potential effects of oil spill exposure on coral larvae of the Florida Keys. Larvae of the brooding coral, Porites astreoides, and the broadcast spawning coral, Montastraea faveolata, were exposed to multiple concentrations of BP Horizon source oil (crude, weathered and WAF), oil in combination with the dispersant Corexit® 9500 (CEWAF), and dispersant alone, and analyzed for behavior, settlement, and survival. Settlement and survival of P. astreoides and M. faveolata larvae decreased with increasing concentrations of WAF, CEWAF and Corexit® 9500, however the degree of the response varied by species and solution. P. astreoides larvae experienced decreased settlement and survival following exposure to 0.62 ppm source oil, while M. faveolata larvae were negatively impacted by 0.65, 1.34 and 1.5 ppm, suggesting that P. astreoides larvae may be more tolerant to WAF exposure than M. faveolata larvae. Exposure to medium and high concentrations of CEWAF (4.28/18.56 and 30.99/35.76 ppm) and dispersant Corexit® 9500 (50 and 100 ppm), significantly decreased larval settlement and survival for both species. Furthermore, exposure to Corexit® 9500 resulted in settlement failure and complete larval mortality after exposure to 50 and 100 ppm for M. faveolata and 100 ppm for P. astreoides. These results indicate that exposure of coral larvae to oil spill related contaminants, particularly the dispersant Corexit® 9500, has the potential to negatively impact coral settlement and survival, thereby affecting the resilience and recovery of coral reefs following exposure to oil and dispersants.
Artificial reefs created by deliberately sinking ships off the coast of the Florida Keys island chain are providing new habitat for marine invertebrates. This newly developing fouling community includes the previously reported invasive orange tube coral Tubastraea coccinea and the non-native giant foam oyster Hyotissa hyotis. New SCUBA-based surveys involving five shipwrecks spanning the upper, middle, and lower Florida Keys, show T. coccinea now also established in the lower Keys and H. hyotis likewise extending to new sites. Two additional mollusks found on the artificial reefs, the amathinid gastropod Cyclothyca pacei and gryphaeid oyster Hyotissa mcgintyi, the latter also common in the natural reef areas, are discussed as potentially non-native. A new species of sessile, suspension-feeding, worm-snail, Thylacodes vandyensis Bieler, Rawlings & Collins n. sp. (Vermetidae), is described from the wreck of the USNS Vandenberg off Key West and discussed as potentially invasive. This new species is compared morphologically and by DNA barcode markers to other known members of the genus, and may be a recent arrival from the Pacific Ocean. Thylacodes vandyensis is polychromatic, with individuals varying in both overall head-foot coloration and mantle margin color pattern. Females brood stalked egg capsules attached to their shell within the confines of their mantle cavity, and give rise to crawl-away juveniles. Such direct-developing species have the demonstrated capacity for colonizing habitats isolated far from their native ranges and establishing rapidly growing founder populations. Vermetid gastropods are common components of the marine fouling community in warm temperate and tropical waters and, as such, have been tagged as potentially invasive or with a high potential to be invasive in the Pacific Ocean. As vermetids can influence coral growth/composition in the Pacific and have been reported serving as intermediate hosts for blood flukes of loggerhead turtles, such new arrivals in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are of concern. Growing evidence indicates that artificial reefs can act as permanent way-stations for arriving non-natives, providing nurseries within which populations may grow in an environment with reduced competition compared to native habitats. Consequently, artificial reefs can act as sentinels for the appearance of new species. Ongoing monitoring of the developing molluscan fauna on the artificial reefs of the Florida Keys is necessary to recognize new invasions and identify potential eradication targets, thereby assuring the health of the nearby natural barrier reef.
Massive declines in population abundances of marine animals have been documented over century-long time scales. However, analogous loss of spatial extent of habitat-forming organisms is less well known because georeferenced data are rare over long time scales, particularly in subtidal, tropical marine regions. We use high-resolution historical nautical charts to quantify changes to benthic structure over 240 years in the Florida Keys, finding an overall loss of 52% (SE, 6.4%) of the area of the seafloor occupied by corals. We find a strong spatial dimension to this decline; the spatial extent of coral in Florida Bay and nearshore declined by 87.5% (SE, 7.2%) and 68.8% (SE, 7.5%), respectively, whereas that of offshore areas of coral remained largely intact. These estimates add to finer-scale loss in live coral cover exceeding 90% in some locations in recent decades. The near-complete elimination of the spatial coverage of nearshore coral represents an underappreciated spatial component of the shifting baseline syndrome, with important lessons for other species and ecosystems. That is, modern surveys are typically designed to assess change only within the species' known, extant range. For species ranging from corals to sea turtles, this approach may overlook spatial loss over longer time frames, resulting in both overly optimistic views of their current conservation status and underestimates of their restoration potential.
Mound Key was once the capital of the Calusa Kingdom, a large Pre-Hispanic polity that controlled much of southern Florida. Mound Key, like other archaeological sites along the southwest Gulf Coast, is a large expanse of shell and other anthropogenic sediments. The challenges that these sites pose are largely due to the size and areal extent of the deposits, some of which begin up to a meter below and exceed nine meters above modern sea levels. Additionally, the complex depositional sequences at these sites present difficulties in determining their chronology. Here, we examine the development of Mound Key as an anthropogenic island through systematic coring of the deposits, excavations, and intensive radiocarbon dating. The resulting data, which include the reversals of radiocarbon dates from cores and dates from mound-top features, lend insight into the temporality of site formation. We use these insights to discuss the nature and scale of human activities that worked to form this large island in the context of its dynamic, environmental setting. We present the case that deposits within Mound Key’s central area accumulated through complex processes that represent a diversity of human action including midden accumulation and the redeposition of older sediments as mound fill.
Submarine slope failures are a likely cause for tsunami generation along the East Coast of the United States. Among potential source areas for such tsunamis are submarine landslides and margin collapses of Bahamian platforms. Numerical models of past events, which have been identified using high-resolution multibeam bathymetric data, reveal possible tsunami impact on Bimini, the Florida Keys, and northern Cuba. Tsunamis caused by slope failures with terminal landslide velocity of 20 ms(-1) will either dissipate while traveling through the Straits of Florida, or generate a maximum wave of 1.5 m at the Florida coast. Modeling a worst-case scenario with a calculated terminal landslide velocity generates a wave of 4.5 m height. The modeled margin collapse in southwestern Great Bahama Bank potentially has a high impact on northern Cuba, with wave heights between 3.3 to 9.5 m depending on the collapse velocity. The short distance and travel time from the source areas to densely populated coastal areas would make the Florida Keys and Miami vulnerable to such low-probability but high-impact events.
Coral reef decline in the Florida Keys has been well-publicized, controversial, and polarizing owing to debate over the causative agent being climate change versus overfishing. The recurrence of mass bleaching in 2014, the sixth event since 1987, prompted a reanalysis of temperature data. The summer and winter of 2014 were the warmest on record. The oldest known in-situ temperature record of any coral reef is from Hens and Chickens Reef (H&C) in the Florida Keys, which showed significant warming from 1975-2014. The average number of days ≥31.5 and 32(o)C per year increased 2670% and 2560%, respectively, from the mid-1990 s to present relative to the previous 20 years. In every year after 1992 and 1994, maximum daily average temperatures exceeded 30.5 and 31°C, respectively. From 1975-1994, temperatures were <31 °C in 61% of years, and in 44% of the years prior to 1992 temperatures were <30.5 °C. The measured rate of warming predicts the start of annual bleaching between 2020 and 2034, sooner than expected from climate models and satellite-based sea temperatures. These data show that thermal stress is increasing and occurring on a near-annual basis on Florida Keys reefs due to ocean warming from climate change.
After a dengue outbreak in Key West, Florida, during 2009-2010, authorities, considered conducting the first US release of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes genetically modified to prevent reproduction. Despite outreach and media attention, only half of the community was aware of the proposal; half of those were supportive. Novel public health strategies require community engagement.
There is a pressing need to integrate biophysical and human dimensions science to better inform holistic ecosystem management supporting the transition from single species or single-sector management to multi-sector ecosystem-based management. Ecosystem-based management should focus upon ecosystem services, since they reflect societal goals, values, desires, and benefits. The inclusion of ecosystem services into holistic management strategies improves management by better capturing the diversity of positive and negative human-natural interactions and making explicit the benefits to society. To facilitate this inclusion, we propose a conceptual model that merges the broadly applied Driver, Pressure, State, Impact, and Response (DPSIR) conceptual model with ecosystem services yielding a Driver, Pressure, State, Ecosystem service, and Response (EBM-DPSER) conceptual model. The impact module in traditional DPSIR models focuses attention upon negative anthropomorphic impacts on the ecosystem; by replacing impacts with ecosystem services the EBM-DPSER model incorporates not only negative, but also positive changes in the ecosystem. Responses occur as a result of changes in ecosystem services and include inter alia management actions directed at proactively altering human population or individual behavior and infrastructure to meet societal goals. The EBM-DPSER conceptual model was applied to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas marine ecosystem as a case study to illustrate how it can inform management decisions. This case study captures our system-level understanding and results in a more holistic representation of ecosystem and human society interactions, thus improving our ability to identify trade-offs. The EBM-DPSER model should be a useful operational tool for implementing EBM, in that it fully integrates our knowledge of all ecosystem components while focusing management attention upon those aspects of the ecosystem most important to human society and does so within a framework already familiar to resource managers.
Liriomyza okrae sp. n. is a new species from Brazil that does not have the yellow thoracic spots usually characteristic of the genus. The specimens were collected in Rondônia state (Brazil), reared from okra-Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench (Malvaceae). Detailed descriptions of adult male, larva and puparium are made, and images of the male, male terminalia, larva, puparium and host-plant are given. A key is provided for Neotropical Liriomyza with an entirely dark thorax.
We isolated a strain of Zika virus, MB16-23, from Aedes aegypti mosquitoes collected in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, on September 2, 2016. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that MB16-23 most likely originated from the Caribbean region.