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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Effects of African Dust on Coral Reefs and Human Health

The Effects of African Dust on Coral Reefs and Human Health

Photo Gallery - Florida Keys Corals: A Photographic Record of Changes Beginning in 1959

Note: This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

coral poster
Florida Keys Corals: A Photographic Record of Changes Beginning in 1959 poster by Gene Shinn, Coral Reef Task Force Meeting, Aug. 9, 2017. (1.4 MB)
Eugene Shinn took the photographs in this gallery over a period of about fifty years at two locations, Grecian Rocks and Carysfort Reef, in the Key Largo Coral Reef Marine Sanctuary in Florida.

At Grecian Rocks, and at Carysfort Reef about 15 kilometers to the north, clear evidence can be seen of the changes affecting these corals.

In some of the earlier photos the aftermath of Hurricane Donna is apparent in the damage that can be seen at some locations. Donna was a Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall in Florida in 1960.

In 1978-79, staghorn and elkhorn corals suffered an extensive die-off in Florida. This change can be seen clearly in the first and last star coral photo sets at Grecian Rocks, and in the brain coral photo set from Carysfort Reef.

By the late 1990s, some of the corals that remained at these locations were afflicted with black band disease, algal infestation, or coral bleaching.

USGS scientists are investigating whether or not the greater amounts of dust and concentrations of chemicals in that dust coming out of Africa are factors in the large scale changes in Caribbean coral reefs.

Grecian Rocks

Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1961
1961
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1965
1965
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1971
1971
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1976
1976
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1978
1978
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1979
1979
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1980
1980
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1988
1988
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1992
1992
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1998
1998
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2001
2001
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2004
2004
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2005
2005
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2006
2006
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2008
2008
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2009
2009
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2008
2008
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2009
2009
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2010
2010
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2015
2015
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1961-2015: This star coral (Montastraea annularis) head at Grecian Rocks was tagged by stainless steel pins for a growth-rate experiment following devastation of the area by Hurricane Donna in 1960. A sediment trap fitted in a cement block lies in the background. Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) grew at a rapid rate and encroached the star coral (see 1971 and 1976). Staghorn began dying in 1979 and most had died by 1983. All staghorn at this site was dead by 1988. In 2015 the misshapen star coral remains and is surrounded by sea fans and sea whips.

Grecian Rocks Brain Coral 1959
1959
Grecian Rocks Brain Coral 1988
1988
Grecian Rocks Brain Coral 1998
1998
Grecian Rocks Brain Coral 1959-1998: Photo of a large Colpophyllia natans (a type of brain coral) with a star coral attached at left and a species of Diploria on the right as in 1959. In 1988, the star coral was missing (note cavity in foreground) but Diploria remained. Hurricane Donna impacted the area after the 1959 photography. In 1998, the head coral was mostly dead and encrusted with sea whips and the Diploria at right was bleached white. Click on a thumbnail image or year to see a larger version of the image.

Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1988
1988
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1998
1998
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2001
2001
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2004
2004
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2005
2005
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2006
2006
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2007
2007
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2009
2009
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2010
2010
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2015
2015
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1988-2015: This large star coral (Montastraea annularis) at Grecian Rocks was being attacked by black-band disease in 1988 (the white part was dead). By 2003 some living tissue remains at the lower right, and two heads of Porites astreoides are growing on the dead surface as shown by diver in 2005 photograph. By 2015 one of the Porites had died. Such successions can be seen in fossil coral reefs exposed in Windley Key Fossil Reef State Park in the Florida Keys.

Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1961
1961
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1971
1971
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1988
1988
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1998
1998
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2001
2001
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 2004
2004
Grecian Rocks Star Coral 1961-2004: This large Montastraea sp. head was being encroached by elkhorn and staghorn coral in 1961 following devastation by Hurricane Donna in 1960. In 1974, there was abundant growth of these corals around the head coral. Elkhorn and staghorn were dead in 1988. The orginal head coral is just below the diver's hand. The head coral was not visible in 1998 and 2004, and the area has been taken over by sea fans and whips. Click on a thumbnail image or year to see a larger version of the image.

Carysfort Reef

Carysfort Reef Star Coral 1960
1960
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 1971
1971
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 1986
1986
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 1998
1998
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 2001
2001
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 2004
2004
Carysfort Reef Star Coral 1960-2004: A large star coral (Montastraea faveolata) in 1960. Arrow points to a spike used to measure growth rate. The series shows changes in the same coral up to 2004 when erosion after death in the early 1980s changed its shape. Only small parts are still living. Click on a thumbnail image or year to see a larger version of the image.

Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1960
1960
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1971
1971
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1986
1986
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1988
1988
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1998
1998
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2001
2001
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2004
2004
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2005
2005
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2006
2006
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2007
2007
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2008
2008
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 2009
2009
Carysfort Reef Brain Coral 1960-2009: In 1960, this brain coral (Diploria sp) was tagged with stainless steel pins (shown by arrows). By 1971, it was surrounded by staghorn coral. By 1986, the staghorn was dead, broken, and covered by fleshy algae. The brain coral continued to die and by 2004 only a small portion was living. Click on a thumbnail image or year to see a larger version of the image.


St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Effects of African Dust on Coral Reefs and Human Health

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