With each tug of the rope by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Cuban flag inched upward, finding a slight breeze and proudly showed off its brilliant colors of red, white and blue to the 500 or so onlookers. The Cubans and Cuban-Americans—never known for their silence at public events—beamed with national pride and shouted with joy as the flag inched up, “Fidel, Fidel!” Countless eyes filled with tears. Many embraced. The world was changing before us. The Cuban flag flew in Washington, DC for the first time in 54 years, signaling the reopening of the Cuban Embassy and normalization of relations with the U.S.
Inside at the embassy at the reception that followed, we hoisted mojitos and exchanged congratulations. But a number of us have long anticipated this moment with both joy and worry, realizing that the U.S. could become a greater threat to Cuba as its friend than it ever was as its enemy.
Ocean Doctor president, David E. Guggenheim joined Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, to discuss Cuba’s coral reefs, their future, and how they may serve as a “living laboratory” to help us restore coral reefs in the Caribbean, where half of the coral reefs have been lost since 1970 according to a 2014 study.
Listen to the recording and visit Science Friday for more information.
I shouted with euphoric joy through my regulator, 20 feet underwater. I can only imagine how wide my eyes were. It must have been difficult to discern between an expression of delighted surprise and a textbook example of wide-eyed diver panic. My eyes were transfixed on an old friend with a funny name whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in years. I had heard he was dead – or at least gravely ill. But there in front of me, larger than life, vibrant and embracing the sun, my friend was very much alive and healthy, clearly enjoying the good life in Cuba.
Several years earlier, I joined an expedition to explore a corner of the Gulf of Mexico I had only heard about from colleagues: The magnificent coral reef ecosystem of Veracruz, Mexico. Seated inside the DeepRover submersible with great anticipation for a vibrant reef that lay below me, I was lowered from the deck of a Mexican Navy ship into the warm blue waters below and radioed the ship that I was going to begin my descent.
Coral reefs are typically found in the warm, clear waters of the tropics and subtropics. Researchers in Japan have recently discovered a coral reef far north of any previously discovered on the planet, off the coast of Japan’s Tsushima Island at 34 degrees north latitude. As a reference, this would put the reef north of the city of Atlanta, Georgia. While cold water and deep water corals are found in polar regions, the types of reef-building corals discovered in Japan are generally much more sensitive to cold water and to cloudy or turbid waters, making this discovery all the more remarkable, especially in light of winter water temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit), considered extremely low and most often fatal to most coral reefs. Read more
In a study led by Lauren T. Toth at Florida Institute of Technology published in the journal, Science, coral reef ecosystems in the tropical eastern Pacific “collapsed for 2500 years, representing as much as 40% of their history, beginning about 4000 years ago.” A series of powerful El Nino events, which include periods of significantly warmer ocean temperature every three to seven years, coincided with the 2,500-year period of coral decline. This was followed by a cycle of La Nina events characterized by much cooler water, beginning 3,200 to 3,800 years ago. Corals recovered during the millenia since but now face a return to extreme weather conditions like those that wiped them out, due to climate change impacts. Read more
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