From Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand:
Sea snail threatens coral
Monday, 31 May 2010
“Our research looks at the effects of this often overlooked ‘zoological oddity’. It’s incredible that such a small snail can have such a significant impact.
“The adverse effects of this largely unstudied snail on coral reefs rival and exceed those of coral bleaching, climate change and human impacts. This small snail may be having a catastrophic impact.”
The worm snails reduced skeletal growth of certain corals by up to 81 per cent and halved their survival rate. Susceptibility to damage varied among coral species.
Similar patterns of devastation have been recorded in other areas, such as the Red Sea. The snail is common in the Pacific and seems to be becoming more widespread.
Dr Shima says the loss of coral is significant because the reefs provide food and shelter for an incredible diversity of sea life.
“Coral reefs also support the economies of many Pacific island nations through fishing and tourism as well as being essential to the island’s own stability, protecting against storms, tsunamis and rising sea levels.
“This is a significant issue for us and our Pacific neighbours, many of which rely on aid from New Zealand yet only a small fraction of reef species, such as this snail, have been studied,” says Dr Shima.
The research has recently been published in the prestigious international journal Biology Letters by the Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth which celebrates its 350th anniversary this year.
Flabellina lineata sea snail in the Netherlands: here.
Researchers study the impact of fishing on remote coral reefs: here.
In Fiji they are attempting to regrow coral reefs with gardening of sorts: here.
A team of international scientists, including Dr Jody Webster from the University of Sydney, have taken part in a groundbreaking voyage to the Great Barrier Reef between February to April this year to acquire fossil coral reef cores from the edge of the continental shelf: here.
Limestone terraces – the relics of the Great Barrier Reef of the past – could give hints on a “tipping point” that could trigger catastrophic climate change in the greenhouse in future, according to new research from the University of Sydney: here.