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Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-chance dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Miami scientists are scrambling to rescue a crop of coral at the bottom of one of the world's busiest shipping channels that they say could hold clues about climate change. 'The coral, which may hold clues about how sea life adapts to climate change, is growing in Government Cut. The channel, created more than a century ago, leads to PortMiami and is undergoing a $205 million dredging project — scheduled to begin Saturday — to deepen the sea floor by about 10 feet in time for a wave of new monster cargo ships cruising through an expanded Panama Canal starting in 2015. Endangered coral and larger coral have already been removed by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the dredging work. But the remaining coral, deemed "corals of opportunity" in Corps lingo, can be retrieved with a permit. The problem, scientists say, is they only had 12 days between when the permits were issued last month and the start of dredging, not nearly enough time to save the unusual colonies thriving in Government Cut.'"
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Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging

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  • by Urkki (668283) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @03:14PM (#47191277)

    Giving 12 days to perhaps save a tiny bit of biodiversity and learn something about doomed nature is too generous, not to mention pointless, such a waste of time. Pave the Earth and be done with it, already! /sarcasm

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget to chrome the Moon while you're at it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Giving 12 days to perhaps save a tiny bit of biodiversity and learn something about doomed nature

      The degree of "doomedness" is highly questionable.

      I don't dispute that human activities have harmed coral in many cases. But coral evolved when it was both warmer than it is now, AND the concentration of CO2 was many times what it is today.

      Also, studies have shown that the pH in a given location of the ocean typically varies every day far more than any amount that can be attributed to CO2.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        > But coral evolved when it was both warmer than it is now, AND the concentration of CO2 was many times what it is today.

        Over millenia, not decades.

        > studies have shown that the pH in a given location of the ocean typically varies every day far more than any amount that can be attributed to CO2.

        But the average over the entire day has been significantly increased. Much like how air temperatures may vary by 20-30 degrees F from night to day but a change in the average daily temperatures of just a coupl

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          But the average over the entire day has been significantly increased.

          Please define "significantly". The amount of "significance" depends on natural variability. As already mentioned, any differences that can be honestly attributed to CO2 don't seem to be "significant" in that context. Further, you seemed to miss the point that coral evolved in conditions of MUCH higher CO2 concentrations, not just a little or even double or triple, but far more than even an order of magnitude. Whether they did it quickly or slowly has little bearing on the fact that they did it.

          Much like how air temperatures may vary by 20-30 degrees F from night to day but a change in the average daily temperatures of just a couple of degrees has a major effect on growing seasons, insect viability, etc.

          I know how it

          • by symbolset (646467) *
            Also, in a period of 10,000 years starting 18,000 years ago sea levels rose 400 feet, with commensurate changes in temperature, salinity and acidity. Somehow the corals survived.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              > Also, in a period of 10,000 years starting 18,000 years ago sea levels rose 400 feet,

              That's true, or close enough to true that its not worth quibbling over here.

              > with commensurate changes in temperature, salinity and acidity.

              That's completely unsupported by the evidence, something you just randomly tacked on hoping to get it by.

              But despite that, what also happened is that coral diversity went into the shitter. It isn't a case of "somehow" its a case of things got really crappy for a long time and

              • by symbolset (646467) *
                How is adding 3% more fresh water to the oceans going to not have impacts on salinity, acidity and temperature? That is just common sense.
                • by Deadstick (535032)

                  Well, let's see. The salinity of the oceans has a worldwide range of about 3.1 - 3.8%, with most of it in the range 3.4 - 3.7%. If you add freshwater equal to 3% of the total, you'll take roughly 1/10 of a percentage point off those figures.

                  Acid concentrations, of course, are much lower than salt concentrations, and the added water will likely have about the same acidity anyway. Given that the added water comes from icemelt, there will be more liquid water surface exposed to sunlight and that will likely i

            • Also, in a period of 10,000 years starting 18,000 years ago sea levels rose 400 feet, with commensurate changes in temperature, salinity and acidity. Somehow the corals survived.

              Here is something -- slightly off-topic but still peripheral to the subject -- that I admit puzzles me: the solubility issue.

              I would have to collect some formulas together and actually do some math... but in general, as temperature goes up, the solubility of CO2 in water decreases. So I am curious how alarmists are claiming both that the temperature will go up, and the amount of dissolved CO2 will also go up. Those two things would seem to work against each other.

              • by khayman80 (824400) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @07:06PM (#47192151) Homepage Journal

                I would have to collect some formulas together and actually do some math... but in general, as temperature goes up, the solubility of CO2 in water decreases. So I am curious how alarmists are claiming both that the temperature will go up, and the amount of dissolved CO2 will also go up. Those two things would seem to work against each other. [Jane Q. Public] [slashdot.org]

                They do work against each other, but our CO2 emissions are so rapid that they overwhelm the solubility effect. Once again [slashdot.org], what you're dismissing as "alarmism" is actually mainstream science. Temperatures are going up, and dissolved CO2 is also going up.

                I tried to explain this point [archive.today] at WUWT, to no avail: Use Henry’s Law to calculate the CO2 due to the ~0.8C surface warming since the Industrial Revolution. You’ll find that only ~20ppm of the actual ~100ppm rise could even hypothetically be explained by the ocean outgassing

                So the reason CO2 in the ocean can increase at the same time surface temperatures increase is because that CO2 comes from our use of fossil fuels, not ocean outgassing. And we're adding to the atmosphere much faster than the warming oceans can lose their dissolved CO2 due to Henry's Law.

                • Given the content of your reply, I am going to give you some credit for relevance. But I do so only very cautiously, in light of your past behavior.

                  I say up front: if you have science to present, then present it. Facts and figures, with references. Otherwise, you have nothing to say to me. I have been very tolerant, and even so I do not like you, or your behavior, or your methods. But if you can produce real science, I will look at it.
                • I would also like to point out again that even if acidification is happening, the RESULTS of that acidification are probably less than alarmists have claimed. Example (2010 article):

                  http://www.rationaloptimist.co... [rationaloptimist.com]

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                If I recall my chemistry correctly, there's two factors that determine the amount of gas dissolved in a liquid: The solubility, and the partial pressure of the gas in the atmosphere. So, if solubility decreases less than partial pressure increases, the total amount of dissolved CO2 will increase.

                Now, consider what humanity is doing - we're directly increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and with it the partial pressure. Which is going to immediately begin increasing the amount of CO2 in the ocean

                • If I recall my chemistry correctly, there's two factors that determine the amount of gas dissolved in a liquid: The solubility, and the partial pressure of the gas in the atmosphere. So, if solubility decreases less than partial pressure increases, the total amount of dissolved CO2 will increase.

                  I understand this quite well, thank you, which was why I stated that I would need to get some formulas together and make some calculations before I made up my mind about the issue.

                  Do not expect me to take your word for it. There have been so many distortions of science made in the name of AGW that I don't take anyone's word for it, I would have to see the data.

                  I expect that you understand. At least, unlike the other responder, you didn't just distort my comments and cast personal aspersions. Sometimes

                  • by Immerman (2627577)

                    Well, if you want to know the exact degree of acidification to be expected I agree you would need the specific formulas and a range of reasonable projections for atmospheric CO2 levels and water temperatures. On the other hand recognizing that there will be at least some temporary level of unavoidable acidification so long as temperature changes lag behind CO2 increases only requires a basic understanding of first principles.

                    Or even simply looking at the measurements of what's already happening: Average a

          • by khayman80 (824400) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @06:40PM (#47192069) Homepage Journal

            "Ocean Acidification” is an up-and-coming buzz phrase used by global warming alarmists. They say it will harm sea life like coral. [Lonny Eachus] [archive.today]

            Caused by CO2, of course. The problem with that theory is that coral evolved when CO2 concentration was *70 TIMES* what it is now. [Lonny Eachus] [archive.today]

            "Warmists" like to scare over things like death of coral due to ocean acidification from CO2. Coral evolved at a time of 70x today’s CO2. [Lonny Eachus] [archive.today]

            The degree of "doomedness" is highly questionable. I don't dispute that human activities have harmed coral in many cases. But coral evolved when it was both warmer than it is now, AND the concentration of CO2 was many times what it is today. ... [Jane Q. Public] [slashdot.org]

            If atmospheric CO2 increases slowly, ocean pH doesn't change significantly because it's buffered by carbonates and land weathering on long time scales. See Fig. 2 in Honisch et al. 2012 [sciencemag.org] (PDF [colorado.edu]):

            "When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it reacts with water to form carbonic acid, which then dissociates to bicarbonate, carbonate, and hydrogen ions. The higher concentration of hydrogen ions makes seawater acidic, but this process is buffered on long time scales by the interplay of seawater, seafloor carbonate sediments, and weathering on land."

            It's incredibly ironic that Jane Q. Public and Lonny Eachus both point to paleoclimate evidence to support their dismissal of ocean acidification. Honisch et al. 2012 also discusses the observed consequences of releasing CO2 more quickly, such as during the end-Permian and PETM.

            Paleoclimate evidence shows that ocean acidification depends on the rate of CO2 emissions, not the amount in the atmosphere.

            Further, it has been shown that DAILY VARIATION of ocean pH at a given location is greater than any change attributable to CO2. [Lonny Eachus] [archive.today]

            Also, studies have shown that the pH in a given location of the ocean typically varies every day far more than any amount that can be attributed to CO2. [Jane Q. Public] [slashdot.org]

            Daily variations can be ~10C or more, but during the end-Permian a ~10C rise in the long term global average temperature coincidentally happened when ~90% of all species went extinct. Furthermore, the marine extinction pattern has ocean acidification's fingerprints on it. Knoll et al. 2007 [harvard.edu] (PDF [stanford.edu]) showed that during the end-Permian extinction, ~85% of genuses like coral with aragonite (CaCO3) skeletons went extinct, but only ~5% of genuses like fish with other skeletons went extinct. The rapid CO2 increase during the PETM also led to a similar albeit less severe marine extinction pattern. Again by coincidence?

            Corals evolved during the Cambrian Era with CO2 7-20X higher than today. "Ocean acidificiation" is just another scam. pic.twitter.com/AufWkV57hR ["Steve Goddard" retweeted by Lonny Eachus] [archive.today]

            No Lonny, it's not a scam. Extremely ra

            • by khallow (566160)

              It's incredibly ironic that Jane Q. Public and Lonny Eachus both point to paleoclimate evidence to support their dismissal of ocean acidification. Honisch et al. 2012 also discusses the observed consequences of releasing CO2 more quickly, such as during the end-Permian and PETM.

              What would you expect them to do for a rational rebuttal of ocean acidification? And this argument reminds me of interpretations of the Great Depression. Everyone wants to interpret it in terms of their personal ideologies and pet theories. In particular, I see no real argument for saying that the PETM had significant ocean acidification yet this isn't the first it's been trotted out as an example of the dire effects of ocean acidification.

              And of course, you finish your post with the argument from author

              • by khayman80 (824400) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @10:55PM (#47192861) Homepage Journal

                I see no real argument for saying that the PETM had significant ocean acidification yet this isn't the first it's been trotted out as an example of the dire effects of ocean acidification. [khallow] [slashdot.org]

                Rapid Acidification of the Ocean During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum [sciencemag.org]

                Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum [wiley.com]

                Ocean acidification and surface water carbonate production across the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum [ucl.ac.uk]

                • by khallow (566160)
                  Ok, so what supports the claim that the level of ocean acidification was significant? For example, one would expect some increase in dissolution of calcite just from the temperature increase that occurred during the PETM.
                    • by khallow (566160)
                      I see the following in the abstract:

                      We conclude that dissolution and dysoxia were not the cause of the extinctions, which were probably related to intense warming that occurred before the onset of the CIE.

                    • by khayman80 (824400)

                      Most extinctions are caused by multiple stresses; rapid CO2 emissions stress ecosystems via rapid warming and ocean acification. Rapid warming during the PETM stressed the land, causing turnover and causing insects to proliferate but causing no major extinctions. Rapid warming and ocean acidification induced by rapid CO2 emissions affected the oceans, causing the benthic extinction event that Alagret et al. 2009 attributed mainly to the rapid warming due to rapid CO2 emissions. Since ocean acidification aff

                    • by khallow (566160)

                      Most extinctions are caused by multiple stresses; rapid CO2 emissions stress ecosystems via rapid warming and ocean acification.

                      Most extinction you will never know happened, much less have a clue how they happened.

                      Since ocean acidification affected benthic species but not land species, it's either responsible for the fact that the PETM affected benthic species worse than on land... or something else is.

                      And "something else" is a large class of things even just in the scope of climate right now including substantial global warming (which incidentally need not have come from CO2) and massive volcanic eruptions.

                      Regardless, we can agree that the most significant stresses leading to PETM benthic extinctions are CO2-induced rapid warming and CO2-induced ocean acidification.

                      Regardless, we can't otherwise you would not have felt the need to write the above. I think what bothers me most about posts like yours above is the false certainty. You may well be 100% right, but you don't have a go

                    • by khayman80 (824400)
                      Citation for PETM warming not due to GHG like CO2/methane?
                    • by khallow (566160)
                      I have a question for you. Are you a scientist or do you merely play one in real life?

                      You made a blanket statement about extinctions. I originally interpreted that to not include the particular circumstances of the PETM. But even if we do, we don't know exactly how species became extinct. They don't leave a DOA certificate even when they leave evidence of themselves in the fossil record. But yes, I would expect benthic species to be inordinately affected by what is alleged here to have occurred during th
                    • by khayman80 (824400)

                      Are you a scientist or do you merely play one in real life?

                      I'd rather not spend my birthday responding to "questions" like these. Pass.

                    • by khallow (566160)
                      How about tomorrow then? I understand birthdays only happen once a year. That leaves plenty of time to answer rhetorical questions.
                    • by khayman80 (824400)
                      There's also plenty of time to bash my head against a wall. That would be more fun and more productive [dumbscientist.com] than "talking" with you.
                    • by khallow (566160)
                      It is kind of sad that my concerns back then have yet to be addressed in four years. Well, more time will eventually demonstrate whether there is any merit to these concerns about ocean acidification.
      • These particular coral are quite doomed. They are, after all, scheduled to be dredged...

        The language is a bit suspicious, though,

        ... wave of new monster cargo ships...

        instead of "[to make way for] larger, more efficient cargo ships." or something more neutral.

        Shipping companies don't want bigger ships just for the heck of it, after all, they want bigger ships because they can move cargo at lower cost per ton.

        • by cdrudge (68377)

          monster: noun - something that is extremely or unusually large

          Existing container ships are large. While yes you can always say "larger", that alone doesn't really convey the size since they already are so large.

      • The degree of "doomedness" is highly questionable.

        That may be so. Or it might not be. I don't know enough about this issue to judge. On the other hand, I do know enough to say with certainty that the logic of your arguments is "highly questionable."

        I don't dispute that human activities have harmed coral in many cases. But coral evolved when it was both warmer than it is now, AND the concentration of CO2 was many times what it is today.

        What does that have to do with anything? An ancestor of a lifeform from the Cambrian era 500 million years ago evolved to survive in the environment of 500 million years ago. That has no bearing on whether a descendant (which may have evolved significantly since then) that survives well in today's environme

        • by BitZtream (692029)

          That may be so. Or it might not be. I don't know enough about this issue to judge.

          ... that, by definition and your own statements ... makes it highly questionable.

          The rest of your post is just disputing facts in exchange for theories

          • That may be so. Or it might not be. I don't know enough about this issue to judge.

            ... that, by definition and your own statements ... makes it highly questionable.

            Why? A person doesn't have to be an expert in any particular area to spot an error in logic.

            The rest of your post is just disputing facts in exchange for theories

            I didn't dispute ANY facts. I pointed out that the stated facts are irrelevant without other supporting evidence. Why? Because other well-known facts demonstrate that the facts presented were not sufficient to make a logical case for the conclusion.

            For example:

            FACT: Many lifeforms on earth differ significantly from their ancestors 500 million years ago.
            FACT: As lifeforms evolve over millions of years, they a

            • Now, if the parent poster has evidence that coral TODAY can survive and thrive under the changing conditions discussed

              In fact I did. I mentioned that the DAILY variability of pH is far higher than any change that can be honestly attributed to pH. If you were to do your research (which you obviously have not done), you would already know that these animals have been through conditions far "worse" (in CO2 terms) not just once but at least several times, and not just for 100 years but for thousands and millions of years.

              Yet, they're still here.

              If you don't think that's relevant, then you don't know what's relevant.

        • What does that have to do with anything? An ancestor of a lifeform from the Cambrian era 500 million years ago evolved to survive in the environment of 500 million years ago. That has no bearing on whether a descendant

          WHOOSH...

          It was presumed that participants in this discussion would possess both a certain amount of scientific literacy, AND some background on the issue.

          So, to supply that deficiency (which I am not obligated to do): the basic argument that has been presented is that the acidification of the oceans via dissolved CO2 would harm sea life that depends on calciferous body parts. (Bivalves, for example, with their calciferous shells, and coral with its calciferous communal "skeleton".)

          The reality, ho

          • Pardon me. Higher pH should have been higher acidity = lower pH.
          • The reality, however, is that these creatures have survived long periods (thousands or even millions of years) of both higher CO2 levels and higher oceanic pH levels. Without noticeable damage.

            I believe the proper reply to you is "WHOOSH..." yet again!

            I understand the details you replied with, but you still completely missed the point.

            You stated originally: "But coral evolved when it was both warmer than it is now, AND the concentration of CO2 was many times what it is today."

            Correct me if I'm wrong here, but the logical chain of your argument as presented is something like, "Earth was different 500 million years ago. Coral evolved in that environment. The environment today is less extrem

    • except these corals already wouldn't be there if we didn't dig this trench in the first place.

      this reminds me of when to construct a water treatment plant along a river, so they redirect the river to build the plant, then, when the plant was completed a year or two later, "environmentalists" stopped them from restoring the original path of the river so the plant could go into operation because the new path of the river created some wetlands that animals started living in. the plant wound up being abandoned

  • Miami won't last another century anyway. They could as well leave the corals right where they are. ;-)
  • I resent the blazes out of dredging to accommodate bigger ships. If anything we need far less ships here. Ships are a huge air pollution problem. You should see the cartons of cigarettes that people toss off of the cruise ships that wash up on Ft. Lauderdale's beaches. The other item is the tampon inserting tubes. They are plastic and we get all kinds of them in the surf.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Yea, because women leave the bathroom in their stateroom BATHROOMS on the cruise ship to throw the tampon tube overboard. They want to make sure everyone knows they have put a tampon in. Cause they are all 12 year old girls. It of course has absolutely nothing to do with where you dump your garbage from those who dwell on land. Just like people who walk out of their staterooms on the ships to throw cig cartons overboard ... instead of in the trash which is right next to them in their staterooms. And it


  • Struth! You Americans worry too much.
    Just contact our Australian Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, he will be able to explain how mega dredging projects are actually good for the environment [theguardian.com].

    We have the biggest coral reef in the world, one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World, right on our doorstep... it's been there for about 18 million years. Too bad the bugger is in the way now, blocking access to more profit - ahem, job creation - for Gina [forbes.com] & co.
    What's another piece of coral anyway.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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