START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
3,238,121 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Efforts to Restore Coral Habitats Stink – Literally

Efforts to Restore Coral Habitats Stink – Literally

If, while looking for a new apartment, you happened upon a pungent neighborhood, you’d look for a home in another area, right? Well, fish and coral are no different. New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that damaged reefs emit an unpleasant odor that fish and coral can smell; this scent subsequently drives the creatures to try to settle somewhere else.

Evolutionarily speaking, the odor has probably usually been a good thing. It keeps coral and fish from settling in unsafe environments. Alas, with the fishing industry and other human interference destroying so many reefs, having this scent drive away sealife from most areas is probably a detriment at this point.

This study likely explains why areas that marine biologists designate in the hopes of having a coral reef “recovery” aren’t especially successful. Evidently, fish can still sense that something smells fishy… I mean suspect, and flee the area. With the stench of “failed habitat” lingering, scientist intervention might not be enough to revive a degrading reef.

Coral reefs are a delicate ecosystem. Seaweed generally prevents coral from growing, which is why it’s great to have seaweed-eating fish frequent coral reefs. When the fish are not around to keep the amount of seaweed limited, old corals die out and new corals look elsewhere for a home. This seaweed, it turns out, also lets off a stinky scent, giving fish and coral yet another odorous reason to stay away from declining reefs.

One of the more discouraging findings of the study is that even coral larvae smell and make living choices based on the water’s scents. With studies showing that baby coral avoided the smelly water five times more than it went to it, that means that coral avoid this type of water even more than it does algae, which is toxic to coral. Obviously, that suggests that reviving old coral reefs will be a tricky task.

Fish are even pickier about the scent, apparently. Scientists looked at 15 different species of fish and found that each one greatly preferred taking up residence in less stinky water, sometimes by as much time as eight times more than they did in the smelly former reefs.

Fortunately, scientists won’t give up on trying to bring back dying reefs, they’ll just likely alter their tactics in light of this information. At the present, some experts believe the best tactic will be to clear certain parts of the ocean floor of seaweed and dead coral altogether in the hopes of preventing the water from being foul-smelling. With any luck, this will be just the adjustment necessary to achieve more success in restoring coral reefs.

Read more: , , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

64 comments

+ add your own
12:21AM PST on Dec 21, 2014

Thanks for sharing

12:20AM PST on Dec 21, 2014

Tua is for sharing

2:37PM PDT on Oct 27, 2014

Thanks for sharing Kevin!

6:58PM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

Now factor in the human impact ... coral mining, pollution, overfishing and netting, blast fishing, digging of canals to access more islands and bays, and you have yet another "intervention" gone wrong. Nature has its own way of restoration as needed.

The more we "intervene" and intrude in nature's gifts, freely given and already abused, the more things die ... and faster. Touted as the smartest, one has to wonder what we've learned.


3:14AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

ty

2:19AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

noted

2:19AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

noted

2:13AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

Thank you for sharing

11:48PM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

Very interesting article but also very sad! We're losing so many of our beautiful coral reefs which is so adversely effecting the marine life in our oceans and causing a great decrease in the necessary components of the reefs which keep our ocean's ecosystems healthy and this is largely due to our commercial fishing industry and acidification of our oceans due to global warming!

10:31PM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

Cleaning up the 'stinky' smelling dead stuff should help a lot....no one likes stinky stuff.

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free
CONTACT THE EDITORS

Recent Comments from Causes

Thank you ....Israel IS good! Spam flagged

I just hope they are all OK. Some were clearly having fun, but some of them had me worried something…

meet our writers

Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
ads keep care2 free

more from causes




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.