Field Notes



A mangrove can refer to two different things: a tidal swamp ecosystem found in tropical areas or the tree itself that makes these ecosystems. Mangrove forests are found in the topics or the subtropics and are mainly found in the Indo West Pacific, the Atlantic East Pacific, and coastlines of Mexico and Central America. The intricate root system along with the coverage that the branches of the trees make, a mangrove forest provides shelter to hundreds of both land and water organisms. Residents of mangrove forests include and are not limited to saltwater crocodiles, pelicans, egrets, flying foxes and monkeys, along with many types of fish, insects, reptiles, and birds. Additionally, mangroves protect populated areas of coastline from erosion and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. Image and Informaiton from: IDENTIFICATION: Red Mangrove: Red mangroves grow at sea level along shorelines and are native to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The red mangrove is easily distinguishable due to its tangled, reddish root system that grows out of the water. The roots extend from the trunk then grow downward on an average of 3 feet before entering the water. In perfect conditions, the red mangrove can grow up to 80 feet. However, in more human-populated areas the red mangrove averages at 2 feet in height. Red mangroves. Photo © Cathleen Bester / Florida Museum Red Mangrove Information and Imagery From:,red%20mangrove%20with%20prop%20roots. Black Mangrove: The black mangrove is characterized by straight horizontal roots systems and straight vertical root projections called pneumatophores. The pneumatophores come from the underground horizontal root systems and project out from the soil and/or sand. In perfect conditions, the black mangrove can grow up to 65 feet, however, in more human-populated areas it is more common for the tree to grow at the tallest 50 feet. Black mangroves. Photo © Cathleen Bester / Florida Museum Black mangrove, Science Source Information and Imagery from: White Mangrove: Unlike the red and black mangrove, the white mangrove lives higher on land and has no visible aerial roots. The white mangrove has light yellow-green leaves that are broad and flat. They also produce greenish-white flowers in spring to early summer. White mangroves also have unique glands called extra-floral nectaries that are found on either side of the stem at the leaf base. These structures excrete sugars which may attract ants that protect the plant from herbivorous insects Above: The white mangrove, Photo L. Holly Sweat, Smithsonian Marine Station at For Pierce Above: Extra-floral nectaries of L. racemose. Photo L. Holly Sweat, Smithsonian Marine Station at For Pierce Information and Imagery From:

Join us at the UN World Ocean Day

ReefQuest will discuss our programs at the UN at 2:40P Eastern time zone as part of the Youth Driving Innovation segment. See it live at

What is Coral Bleaching

Learn to spot coral bleaching and what it means for the coral reef ecosystem Content from Eyes of the Reef Hawai'i Photography from Dylan Vecchione, ReefQuest A coral colony is made up of numerous individual coral polyps.  Corals use their tentacles to feed on zooplankton, but depend primarily on microscopic, algae known as zooxanthellae located inside their tissues to provide them with food.  Corals are very dependent on this symbiotic relationship, receiving up to 90% of their energy from the zooxanthellae.  Healthy corals usually appear tan, brown or green from the presence of the algae within their tissues.  Some types of corals have additional pigments so may appear more blue or purple. Coral bleaching is a stress response that occurs when the coral-algae symbiotic relationship breaks down.  The term “bleaching’ describes the loss of color that results when zooxanthellae are expelled from the coral polyps or when chlorophyll within the algae are degraded.  When the zooxanthellae leave the coral, the white of the coral skeleton is then clearly visible through the transparent coral tissue, making the coral appear bright white or ‘bleached’. Some corals, such as our lobe coral, have additional pigments in their tissue, so when they ‘bleach’ they may turn a pastel shade of yellow, blue or pink rather than bright white. What causes coral bleaching? Coral bleaching can be caused by a wide range of environmental stressors such as pollution, oil spills, increased sedimentation, changes in salinity, low oxygen, or disease. However, the primary cause of mass coral bleaching is increased sea temperatures.  Corals are very sensitive animals so water temperatures need only increase 1-2 degrees Celsius above normal levels for bleaching to occur.  The corals are still alive after bleaching but begin to starve. Most corals struggle to survive without their zooxanthellae.  If the stressful conditions return to normal rather quickly, the corals can regain or regrow their zooxanthellae and survive.  If the stressors are prolonged, the corals are more susceptible to disease, predation, and death because they are without an important energy source. Not all corals are equally susceptible to bleaching.  Fast-growing branching and plate corals are often the first to bleach and are more likely to die from bleaching.  Slower growing massive corals usually take longer to bleach and tend to be able to survive for longer in the bleached state. Past, Present… Future? Localized coral bleaching has been recorded for over 100 years but only in the last 20 years have we seen mass coral bleaching events. Mass bleaching has now affected every reef region in the world. A particularly severe worldwide bleaching event occurred in 1998, effectively destroying 16 percent of the world’s reefs. When coral bleaching causes extensive death of corals, recovery is very slow and dependent on new, young corals (called recruits) settling and growing on the reef. Regrowth of reefs that have been severely damaged by bleaching may take decades. Recovery is especially difficult for reefs in locations suffering from other stresses such as pollution, over fishing or other chronic pressures. Coral bleaching is predicted to occur much more frequently due to higher sea temperatures associated with global climate change. Human populations continue to grow placing more and more stress on the coral reefs. The time to protect our reefs is NOW before these valuable resources are lost forever. Healthy rice coral on Kahekili Reef, Maui, HI

Dylan Speaks at Rockefeller Event for the We Are Family Foundation

Dylan was honored to represent the Global Teen Leaders at the "Changing Watch" event by the We Are Family Foundation and Susan and David Rockefeller, which commemorated the next generation of environmental advocates. See the article here!

Dylan return to Shoals Marine Laboratory as Speaker

What a fun return back to Shoals Marine Laboratory, where Dylan received his American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Scientific Diving certification. This time he spoke about work with ReefQuest, and citizen science monitoring efforts! See the event photo gallery here!

SaltStrong: How A Teenager With Braces Is Altering The Future Of Coral Reefs

Thank you for the great article in SaltStrong! Read it here.

ReefQuest parters with the Coral Reef Alliance

Thank you for the writeup, CORAL! We are grateful for all the work we've done together. Find the article here!

The Patch: Dylan Receives International Recognition

Dylan is selected as a 2012 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader for his work with ReefQuest. See the article here!

Oceana Ocean Hero Finalist Dylan Vecchione

International conservation organization Oceana selected Dylan as an Ocean Hero finalist! Thank you for the recognition! See the post here.

Talk at Ideagen in Washington DC

See the talk and Q&A session at Gallup for the Ideagen conference in Washington DC about big data and citizen science!

Huffington Post: Ideagen Talk by Dylan Vecchione

A great article by George Sifakis about Dylan's talk at Ideagen in Washington DC about big data with citizen science in environmental monitoring. Read it here!

Mashable covers ReefQuest Story

We are so grateful to Mashable for this wonderful story about ReefQuest's Journey into the world of coral research, documentation, and citizen science! Read it here!

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