The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will receive approximately US$1 million (~€934,100) in funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund to support an immediate emergency response to the record-breaking marine heat wave and resulting coral reefs in crisis in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
A marine heat wave has caused water temperatures in the Florida Keys to average ~89.5°F (~32°C), with reports of spikes as high as ~91.5°F (33°C), according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Coral experts are taking action in response to coral bleaching events and widespread coral mortality.
This ongoing heat wave poses a grave threat to these fragile ecosystems and the marine life they support, as well as the communities, jobs and economy that depend on it.
Joel Johnson, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said:
“The Foundation is grateful to NFWF and all our coral restoration partners in Florida for deploying immediate rescue efforts to report on and respond to the marine heat wave. The urgency of the situation requires immediate and coordinated action, and we cannot do this alone. Together, we are planning for continued resilience and restoration efforts through Mission: Iconic Reefs.”
The funding will support a multi-pronged approach for coral rescue and recovery at key reef sites and coral nurseries in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Conservation organizations are rescuing at-risk corals and relocating them to land-based facilities, where they will be nurtured while record-high temperatures persist.
Partners will also be preserving endangered and threatened coral species by building a “coral ark” of “founders” corals that can seed future restoration efforts. Funding will also support activities where corals cannot be moved ashore, to minimize stressors by moving the corals into deeper, cooler waters.
Additional monitoring and analysis of reef responses will follow, in order to understand the severity of the bleaching and identify areas that were more resilient to guide future restoration efforts.