RESOURCE: All About Reefs

Science  01 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5595, pp. 929
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5595.929b

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean: diverse, showy, and abused. Reef experts and curious visitors will find a trove of data about these rich ecosystems and the threats they face at the Coral Reef Information Service Web site, a new portal for coral data amassed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Atmospheric scientists studying climate change, for instance, can download measurements of the ratio of oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 isotopes in coral samples, useful for reconstructing past temperatures and rainfall. Marine biologists can nab coral growth rate measurements or pick through fish censuses for reefs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There's also a guide to nearly 3300 coral-inhabiting fishes from around the world. For nonspecialists, the site offers plenty of background information. Essays explore reef-wrecking diseases such as black-band disease, a bacterial slime that smothers the coral animals, leaving behind a barren skeleton. To get eye to eye with some reef inhabitants, plunge into the reef section of NOAA's photo library, which features 800 images.

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