An expedition of Cuban scientists departs July 10 to study Cuban coral reefs in one of the largest scientific efforts in Cuban waters to date. The expedition, ending Aug 28, will advance studies of reef climate resilience, an increasingly critical topic as ocean waters warm. Though vital to ocean health, reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change and pollution. Half a billion people and around 25 percent of all ocean fish depend on healthy coral reefs, but more than half of reefs globally are at risk for heat stress.
The group of 24 Cuban scientists and experts will circumnavigate 5,700 km of Cuban coastline aboard the “Oceans for Youth” research vessel, operated by Avalon-Marinas Marlin (MINTUR). More than 30 Cuban institutions, including the Marine Research Center of the University of Havana, Avalon-Marinas Marlin (MINTUR), Naturaleza Secreta, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Environment Agency of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment of Cuba and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joined in this collaborative effort.
Cuba is home to four of the world’s most climate-resilient coral reefs, making it an ideal location to study and potentially impact the preservation of other reefs worldwide. Reefs are hotspots of biodiversity, barometers for ocean health and function as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing excess carbon from the atmosphere.
By the end of the journey, the scientists are expected to have facilitated a unique database of samples, images and observations that will help enhance understanding of coral reefs in Cuba and beyond. The database will also record the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and coastal communities.
From the partners:
- “This expedition is the fruit of decades of intense work and marks the beginning of a new era for marine science and conservation in Cuba,” said Dr. Fabián Pina Amargós, Cuban marine biologist and a leader of the expedition. “For the first time, we will have a complete picture of the state of corals throughout the island, along with observations on sharks, fish, water quality, microbiology and many other groups.”
- “Through this collaborative effort involving more than 30 Cuban institutions, we established a research protocol that will allow homogeneous data to be obtained on a spatial and temporal scale,” said Dr. Patricia González, Cuban marine biologist and a leader of the expedition.
- “During navigation, we will register all human activities observed, as well as of the presence of megafauna, such as whales, sharks and pelagic fish, and waterfowl. We will seek evidence of how the impacts of climate change are affecting ecosystems and coastal communities and the effectiveness of our marine protected area system,” said Tamara Figueredo, Cuban economist and another one of the lead scientists of the expedition.
- “This marine adventure will bring each Cuban closer to the splendor and richness of its waters. It will inspire us to continue the impressive work being done across the island for years to conserve its natural resources and cope with the impacts of climate change, ” said Omelio Borroto Leiseca, the head of Naturaleza Secreta.
- “The sea unites us. The conservation of coral reefs and marine resources in Cuba benefits ecosystems and communities in the United States and the entire region. We are honored to collaborate on this expedition,” said Valerie Miller, director of EDF’s Cuba program.
Source : EDF