Coral Castles reef was declared dead in 2003. It lied in a remote island lagoon between Hawaii and Fiji in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Unusually warm water had devastated de ecosystem and it " looked like a pile of drab dinner plates tossed into the sea" says The New York Times. Research dives in 2009 and 2012 had confirmed its bad health.
Then a team of marine biologists found Coral Castles genus Acropora teeming with life in 2015. Still they were worried the fragile coral could survive 2016, the hottest year on record so far.
But a team of Semester students from the Sea Education Association (SEA) lead by professor Dr. Jan Witting with researchers from the Oceanographic Institution and New England Aquarium found the coral ecosystem had continue to recover.
"The reefs were, in fact, thriving!" says SEA's statement.
Climate change has caused great damage to this ecosystems. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Caribbean bleaching has become normal. They are severely damaged by rising water temperatures, that cause acidification, as well as by pollution, human intervention, fishing and shipping.
What's important about Coral Castles is if it continues to revive after years of apparent lifelessness there is hope for other corals around the world. Although it might be an isolated situation scientists are exited to find why this coral and other reef in PIPA came back to life.
"There’s a recipe book that can be developed out of what we’re learning here,” Dr. Witting said to The New York Times. “You need to make a strong case that this can work before anyone else will try it.”
The Phoenix Islands are listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. They are home to a number a birds, sea turtles, schools of fish and sleeper sharks and 200 species of coral. The sea is also a cemetery for sunken ships
María Andrea Marquez