Resilient corals thrive in urban oasis: Port of Miami’s surprising coral communities defy adverse conditions

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) has revealed the remarkable resilienche of corals within the highly urbanized environment surrounding the Port of Miami. Despite facing unfavorable conditions such as poor water quality, excessive nutrients, high temperatures, high salinity, and low pH levels, these corals have thrived.

The Port of Miami serves as a busy waterway for various maritime activities, including large cruise and cargo ships, ferries, fishing vessels, and recreational boats. The study found that these corals have managed to establish robust and diverse communities on human-made structures such as seawalls and discarded objects.

The research, published in Scientific Reports under the title “Coral persistence despite marginal conditions in the Port of Miami,” highlights the significance of these corals not only due to their rarity and vulnerability but also because they offer valuable insights into the future of coral reef ecosystems. According to Michael Studivan, a scientist at the Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies and a co-author of the study, these corals have managed to persist despite facing conditions that would harm many other reef species, including extreme temperatures, acidification, and poor water quality.

Over a span of three years starting in 2018, scientists conducted visits to the Port of Miami to monitor environmental conditions and assess coral community dynamics. Cutting-edge instruments, including sub-surface autonomous samplers developed at CIMAS/AOML, were employed to measure various parameters such as temperature, pH, oxygen levels, carbonate chemistry, light, and tidal flow at three different reef sites. Additionally, detailed maps of the habitats, characterizing coral cover, distribution, and species diversity, were created using photomosaics comprised of thousands of high-resolution underwater photos stitched together.

The research team also collaborated with Coral Morphologic’s Coral City Camera, which provided live underwater footage from an urban coral nursery site. This collaboration enabled scientists to identify unique fish species visiting the area, including the endangered smalltooth sawfish.

Ian Enochs, the lead author of the study and a research ecologist at AOML, noted that the Port of Miami presented a highly engineered and artificial environment, unlike the typical research sites. Nevertheless, nature has demonstrated its ability to adapt and persist even in such unnatural surroundings.

Overall, the study sheds light on the resilience and adaptability of corals, offering valuable insights into their potential survival strategies in the face of ongoing environmental challenges.

Source: University of Miami

Leave a Comment