Sea surface temperature has a big impact on coral outplant survival

July 10, 2020

Global average sea surface temperatures have risen at unprecedented rates for the past three decades, with far-reaching consequences for coral reefs. Today, the majority of coral reefs are surviving at their upper thermal limit and an increase in just one degree Celsius lasting longer than a few weeks can lead to coral bleaching and death. With projections of ocean warming expected to continue to rise by as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, scientists are in a race against time to find new solutions to sustain reefs.

One promising solution is “coral gardening” or outplanting, a method where coral fragments grown in a nursery are transplanted onto degraded reefs. Successful outplanting raises coral biomass and helps to restore reef function. Each year, thousands of corals are outplanted using this method.  foo A bleached coral reef in Hawaii. Without rapid intervention, coral reefs will continue to degrade, resulting in what may be the first human-caused loss of an entire biome. Credit: Greg Asner, director of the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science

While effective, the technique is both time-consuming and expensive; the cost of reef restoration can reach $400,000 per hectare and success isn’t always guaranteed. If the newly settled corals are exposed to stressors such as algae outbreaks, unfavorable water chemistry, and/or temperature fluctuations, they can quickly deteriorate and die. With temperature being one of the most fundamental factors determining coral health and survival, understanding its role in outplanting survival is crucial to restoration success. 

In a study published June 10 in Environmental Research Letters, researchers from Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science have shown that coral outplant survival is likely to drop below 50% if sea surface temperatures exceed 30.5 degrees Celsius and that survival rates can also be predicted by considering temperature conditions in the year prior to outplanting.

“Coral reefs experience a global, annual maximum sea surface temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius," said Shawna Foo, lead author and postdoctoral researcher at the center. "Our study reveals that increasing the maximum temperature a site experiences by one degree higher reduces the chance of coral outplant survival to below 50%. We highlight the importance of considering temperatures a site has previously experienced to optimize outplant outcomes." 

The study was based on an analysis of hundreds of coral outplanting projects worldwide between 1987 and 2018. The team assessed data on coral survival rates, outplant locations and dates, along with sea surface temperature data extracted from satellites to determine the effects of temperature on outplant survival. They also considered whether temperatures from the year prior to coral outplanting showed similar patterns. The results of their analysis help to determine if a restoration site is appropriate or not.

"Although sobering for reef conservationists and managers, our findings provide a critical compass as to where reef restoration efforts can have their greatest impact in the future. Reef restoration is just now turning from a cottage industry to a global enterprise, and this needs to happen in concert with the changing global geography of ocean temperature," said Greg Asner, co-author of the study and director of center.

The study was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Heather D'Angelo

Communications director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science

ASU researchers partner to help state end violence against Indigenous women, girls

July 10, 2020

After Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law in 2019 a bill creating a study committee to examine ways that Arizona can battle violence against American Indian women and girls, state legislators tapped Associate Professor Kate Fox and a team of Arizona State University researchers to seek the data that could help the state win that fight.

Fox, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is known for her work collaborating with community partners to improve the safety of Native women. One of the biggest threats to Native women’s safety is a national crisis known by the abbreviation MMIWG, for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Associate Professor, Kate Fox, Arizona State University, Indigenous, women, girls, murdered, missing Kate Fox, associate professor in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Download Full Image

Fox’s reputation attracted the attention of the bill’s author, state Rep. Jennifer Jermaine (White Earth Ojibwe), D-Chandler, and Debbie Nez-Manuel (Navajo Nation), the study committee’s Data Sharing Subcommittee co-chair, who connected her with lawmakers.

Fox, working with her team in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, now serves as lead researcher and is partnering with committee members to write their final report, due in late 2020. Nez-Manuel has professional experience working with tribal women and urban youth. She also has shared personal realities of missing women.

Fox also collaborates with ASU’s American Indian Policy Institute (Director Traci Morris, Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), Office of American Indian Projects (Director Chris Sharp, Colorado River Indian Tribe), American Indian Initiatives (Assistant Vice President Jacob Moore, Tohono O’odham Nation), the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research (Dominique Roe-Sepowitz), as well as LeCroy & Milligan Associates, Inc.

“I feel so honored to be trusted with this work,” Fox said of her partnership with the study committee. Fox is director of the Research on Violent Victimization Lab, also based at Watts College. Her research focuses on crime victimization, particularly against underserved populations, including American Indian women and girls.

Study committee to come up with statewide plan

HB 2570, which passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate, led to the creation of a 23-member study committee composed of legislators, social advocates, law enforcement, and tribal officials, among others. Jermaine — the committee’s chairperson — along with Fox and the rest of the committee are tasked with assessing the scope of the problem, finding out how many women and girls are murdered or missing, and coming up with a statewide plan to reduce the occurrence, Fox said. The plan is expected to include recommendations for state agencies to follow to curb future victimization, she said.

Fox said there’s been an explosion of such legislation in the past year. In May 2019, Arizona was the third state to pass such a law. Since then, a total of 14 states have enacted similar legislation, along with the federal government through a group established by an executive order.

The laws are desperately needed, she said, as violent victimization impacts American Indian women and girls, men and boys, as well as Two Spirit (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) American Indian people.

Fox said a national study found that in some counties, American Indian women were being murdered at a rate 10 times the national average of all murder victims.

“Why are American Indians at such high risk of being murdered or going missing at such high rates?” Fox asked. “Is it connected to human trafficking? Domestic violence? Sexual abuse? We don’t know yet. There’s just not enough good data yet. But we do know that the historical — and current — oppression of American Indian people plays a key role in perpetuating violence against this population.”

Two other studies have shown that American Indian women are more likely to be stalked, sexually assaulted and abused by an intimate partner compared to white, African American and Hispanic women, she said.

Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men  
Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization

Victims, others are starting to speak

Tradition and culture in many American Indian communities make it taboo to speak someone’s name after they have died, Jermaine said, which sometimes affects whether a missing and/or murdered person situation is reported.

“There are cultural shifts happening along generational lines and communities and individuals are beginning to talk about what happened to them and their loved ones,” Jermaine said. “We have worked with tribal councils to ensure that we are respecting their communities and listening to their members. We also have victim services counselors at every community event to assist families and help connect them with culturally appropriate services.”

Another issue for the committee to consider is how to work with sparse or incorrect victim data.

“Bodies are found and it is sometimes unclear to police whether that person was American Indian,” Fox said. “Officers sometimes put ‘white,’ ‘Hispanic,’ or ‘Asian’ down on their reports. Racial misclassification is still a big problem.”

A report by Canadian authorities about violence against Indigenous women and girls, and the grassroots movement in the U.S., sparked the recent legislation, she said.

“Canada’s report started waking up the U.S. They did a national inquiry — more than 1,000 pages with nearly 100 policy recommendations. They labeled MMIWG as genocide and the U.S. is now finally paying attention,” she said.

In the U.S., the first major report was conducted by the Urban Indian Health Institute, which showed that more MMIWG happens than is known or publicized by the media.

The grassroots movement that had existed in the U.S. for decades, and Canada’s report, ignited into state legislation. Arizona’s version is seen by the American Indian community as one of the better laws and worthy of emulation by others, Fox said.

“All eyes are looking at Arizona,” she said. “We have a robust bill and the goal is for this to have long-term life-saving implications.”

The committee has a big project ahead of it, Fox said, but the crisis it is investigating must be overcome.

“Our goal is to empower communities to be healthier and safer,” she said. “By working to save lives.”

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions