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Research Seminar: Aliyah Griffith
November 3, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
The UNC at Chapel Hill’s Earth, Marine, and Environmental Sciences Department presents the Research Seminar of graduate student Aliyah Griffith. This event will be held on Wednesday, November 3rd, at 1:00 pm. This event is remote only and can be attended via Zoom Meeting ID 966 3416 7270.
Seminar Title: Impacts of Hurricane Irma on Coral Skeletal Growth across the Florida Keys Reef Tract
Abstract: Coral reefs are at risk due to various global and local anthropogenic stressors that have impacted the health of reef ecosystems worldwide. The most recent climate models predict that one of the primary impacts of climate change will be the increasing frequency and intensity of tropical storms. This increase will compromise coral reef structures and habitats for reef-dwelling organisms, including across the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT), the most extensive tropical reef system on the U S. coast. Several recent studies reveal the chronic impacts of tropical storms on corals; however, relatively little is known about the direct effects of major storm events on coral growth and whether these effects vary over spatiotemporal scales. Here, we characterize the skeletal growth of two common Caribbean reef-building coral species, Siderastrea siderea and Pseudodiploria strigosa, before and after Hurricane Irma, to investigate the storm’s impact on coral growth on the inner and outer reefs of the FKRT. Coral cores were extracted from both coral species on four inner and outer reef sites before (May 2015) Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys (September 2017), and micro-cores were collected two years after (May 2019) the storm traversed our previously-cored coral colonies. We hypothesize that increased sedimentation and nutrient levels, decreased light, and shifts in sea surface temperature associated with Hurricane Irma will compromise coral growth for both species, and the negative growth response will be more significant for inner reef coral conspecifics. Our coral core sampling on the FKRT before and after Hurricane Irma will increase our understanding of storm impacts on corals and offer insights into how we can employ corals’ innate growth capacities to help conserve coral reefs under climate change.