Evaluation of Environmental Stressors to Coral in the Florida Keys
Coral decline has been observed worldwide including to reefs in Florida. Several global and local stressors have been implicated as contributors to the decline of coral populations The most pervasive and deleterious stressor is the global event of rising atmospheric CO2 levels which results in sea temperature changes and acidification. These global warming changes cause coral bleaching and ultimately coral death. Stony Coral Tissue Loss Diseases (SCTLD) is causing widespread devastation in the Florida Reef Tract. Expert coral biologists have identified the most important stressors to reefs in Florida – invasive species, unsustainable fishing practices, coastal development, untreated or poorly treated wastewater, urban and agricultural run-off, and tourism-related damage. Recently, questions have been raised about the potential for certain sunscreen active ingredients (UV filters) to contribute to the decline in coral ecological status. An investigation was conducted to evaluate environmental stressors to coral in the Florida Reef Tract with a focus on the Florida Keys through the lens of possible global and local factors. Stressors with potential to impact coral ecosystems in the Florida Keys were identified and prioritized. A weight-of-evidence did not verify sunscreens as a contributor to coral decline. Improving the ecological status of coral in the Florida Keys requires prioritizing efforts on the most significant stressors. Mitigation efforts to restore damaged coral have been successful to some extent but are labor and time intensive. Conservation efforts should focus on recreational practices such as educational efforts on boaters, divers, and other activities in and around the coral reef to reduce the spread of SCTLD and minimize structural damage to the reefs.
SETAC Europe 2022. On-Demand Only Session 4.07: Environmental Risk Assessment of Organic and Inorganic UV Filters. Oral Presentation.
R. Vamshi, N. Maples-Reynolds, M. Williams (Waterborne), S. Dyer (Waterborne and LeTourneau University), K. Reynertson (Johnson & Johnson), J. Sirois (Consumer Healthcare Products Association)