Tag Archives: America

Healthiest US Coral Reef is in Gulf of Mexico

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is among the healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the US Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, according to a new NOAA report.

Sanctuary managers will use the report to track and monitor changes in the marine ecosystem located 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

“We found that 50 percent of the area surveyed for this report is covered by live coral,” said Chris Caldow, a NOAA marine biologist and lead author on the report. “This is significant because such high coral cover is a real rarity and provides critical habitat for many different types of fish and other animals that live in these underwater systems.”

The sanctuary also is unusual in that it is dominated by top-level predators, including large grouper, jacks, and snappers that are virtually absent throughout the U.S. Caribbean. Researchers looked at the relationship between physical measures of the sanctuary’s habitat such as depth, slope and geographic location, and the nature of the fish community in each location.

The report cautions that despite the sanctuary’s relatively healthy condition, it may be more susceptible to environmental impacts than previously thought. For example, scientists observed high levels of coral bleaching and corals severely impacted from hurricane activity.

NOAA predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages the US coastal and marine resources.

For more on Flower Garden Banks see the NOOA site.

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Computers decide when to stop searches at sea

Researchers at Portsmouth University and the US Coast Guard are working together to develop a computer model that will predict how long someone will survive when lost at sea.

The Search and Rescue Survival Model has been designed to take the pressure off rescuers making difficult decisions about when a search and rescue mission should be stopped.

“Using this new computer model will take pressure off humans making very emotional and sensitive decisions about when to end a search,” said Professor Mike Tipton, human and applied physiologist, from the University of Portsmouth.

“When the model predicts that a victim can no longer survive, the search and rescue team can stop or redeploy the search.

“It will ensure that Coast Guard personnel are not exposed to the high risks associated with search and rescue operations any longer than necessary and will also help to save time and resources,” he said.

The US Coast Guard currently uses a software system known as SAROPS (Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System) to calculate how far a person will have drifted and how large the search area should be.

Data such as wind speed, sea state and water temperature is entered into SAROPS along with information about the victim’s sex, height, weight and what they were wearing to determine exactly how the search should be conducted.

“Calculating survival time will add another layer to SAROPS; it will be able to predict not only where a search should be conducted but when it should be stopped,” said Professor Tipton.

“The University of Portsmouth has been able to tap into and analyze data held by the Institute of Naval Medicine and the Royal National Lifeboats Institution, both critical to the development of this survival model. To our knowledge no other similar repository of this information exists – even in the US.

“The development of this technology is very exciting. It will be trialled in American waters in late 2009 and once thoroughly tested, the aim is to roll it out to the whole of the US,” he said.

New free guide to diving America’s marine sanctuaries

photo credit: NOAAThe NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program has developed a colourful new printed guide and Web page for scuba divers, about diving in America’s 13 national marine sanctuaries.

“NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries have something to offer every diver, from the most experienced to the newly certified,” said Daniel J. Basta, sanctuary program director. “We hope that all divers visiting our sanctuaries will want to join efforts to help preserve and protect these special places for future generations.”

The new diving guide describes the world beneath the sea at each of the national marine sanctuaries, from the shipwrecks and nutrient-rich waters of Stellwagen Bank off Massachusetts to the pristine coral reefs of Fagatele Bay in American Samoa. The brochure also offers tips on how to be a more responsible diver by mastering buoyancy control, respecting marine wildlife, and how to volunteer for habitat monitoring activities in your local marine sanctuary.

Available in PDF format at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit/diving.html, a short version of the new guide can be downloaded and customised for use by dive operators and tourism companies to give their customers.

NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States Department of Commerce.

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