The hours are ticking down for researchers trying to preserve some of the coral at the bottom of PortMiami’s shipping channel. This dash to harvest some of the reef that has made a home there reflects changing attitudes toward marine preservation.
The port will begin dredging on Saturday to accommodate bigger ships going to and from the expanding Panama Canal.
Even though not all of the coral can be preserved, the harvesting will create some unique research opportunities.
Andrew Baker, a researcher from the University of Miami, is one of those trying to salvage some of the coral.
“Ten or 15 years ago conservationists were interested in trying to identify pristine reef environments,” says Baker. “Environments where we thought reefs might have escaped the worst effects of climate change and other disturbances like over fishing or nutrient pollution.”
But increasingly, that focus has shifted to areas that have produced hardy and resilient reefs.
“Maybe what we should be doing is prioritizing those areas,” says Baker. “They have the best chances of being able to survive into the future.”
The University of Miami will use the coral for experiments that may provide some insight into what it is that makes this coral so resilient.