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5600 Old Dixie Highway
Fort Pierce, Florida,34946
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution was founded in Ft. Pierce, Florida in 1971 to support the exploration and preservation of the world's oceans. Today it is also Florida's premier marine mammal research facility. Because personal watercraft are easy to ma... more.
Project Baseline Continues 30 Years of Research in the Florida Keys | GlobalSubDive
Miami, FL. - Project Baseline scuba and manned submersible diving teams will conduct operations from the 146' long mobile diving platform, the Baseline Explorer, to advance 30 years of ongoing research by systematically documenting the health of reefs in the Florida Keys, FL. Under the direction of Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the teams will dive coral reefs between Key Largo and Looe Key to document the connection between nutrient loading resulting from wastewater disposal and reef health.
Eutrophication is the over-enrichment of water by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which sets in motion several debilitating effects on coral reefs. In 2008, The World Resources Institute identified over "415 areas worldwide currently experiencing eutrophication symptoms, [with] significant information gaps in many regions." Dr. Brian Lapointe is an expert in Harmful Algal Blooms with extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean. Dr. Lapointe's long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world. Dr. Lapointe's research has found that increasing nitrogen from land-based sources has led to algal blooms, coral disease and die-off and growth of seaweeds and sponges, which have transformed reefs in areas of the Caribbean adjacent to increasing human activities. This is especially true in the Florida Keys, which now have the lowest coral cover of any reefs in the wider Caribbean region. Long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key in the lower Florida Keys since 1984 showed significant increases in dissolved inorganic nitrogen in the early 1990s following increased flows of sewage from the Keys and agricultural runoff from the Everglades. The increased nitrogen loading crossed a "tipping point," where unprecedented algal blooms were followed by an uptick in coral diseases, coral bleaching, and the dramatic loss of living coral. It is clear from Dr. Lapointe's and other research that increased nitrogen loading has fostered eutrophication and algal blooms that are taking an increasing toll on coral reef health. Environmental groups focused on reef health in the Keys are advocating for deep well injection on the basis of Dr. Lapointe's research. About Dr. Brian Lapointe: Dr. Lapointe's research interests include algal physiology and biochemistry, sea grass and coral reef ecology, eutrophication, marine bio invasions, and marine conservation. Dr. Lapointe's work in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in the 1990s, which utilized stable nitrogen isotopes to "fingerprint" nitrogen sources, was the first to demonstrate the importance of agricultural nitrogen from mainland sources to development of algal blooms in the Keys. He developed the first "ridge-to-reef" water quality monitoring program for the European Union in Negril, Jamaica, a model that has been adopted by Marine Protected Areas around the Caribbean region. Dr. Lapointe has advised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of Florida and the governments of Monroe County (Florida Keys), Palm Beach County, Lee County, Bahamas, Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, Bonaire, Curacao, Martinique and St. Lucia on development of water quality monitoring programs for assessing the impacts of land-based pollution.
On March 6, 2006, the nutrient monitoring project for Bonaire and Curacao, intended to establish baseline nutrient data for the two islands for comparison, and in preparation for the sewage treatment plant project to be constructed on Bonaire, is off to a start with the arrival of Dr. Brian Lapointe in Bonaire.
Dr. Brian Lapointe of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is one of the world's experts on nutrient loading and macro algae growth on coral reefs, doing research in Florida, Jamaica (Negril marine protected area), and elsewhere in the Caribbean, most recently in Tobago. He will be working in Bonaire and Curacao for a period of ten days each (starting March 16 in Curacao), selecting sites, and training volunteers to continue the sampling quarterly after this initial round of sampling. The samples will be analyzed in sophisticated laboratories in the US capable of detecting the almost undetectably low nutrient concentrations that characterize healthy reef environments, and Brian will then prepare a report with his interpretation of the collected data.
Project Baseline Teams with HBOI to Expose Disastrous State of Coral Reef Communities in Southeast | GlobalSubDive
Project Baseline deployed its research vessel Baseline Explorer to the reefs off of south Florida and the Keys from June 10 to June 17 as part of a collaborative effort with Dr. Brian Lapointe of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University.
The team also collected numerous samples of algae that will be analyzed in Dr. Lapointe's lab at HBOI for nitrogen isotopes to pinpoint the source of nutrients allowing the algae to thrive at the expense of the coral reefs and the animals that live on and around them. Dr. Lapointe's work studying the algae on these reefs spans more than 2 decades and has revealed that the explosion of algae and associated demise of the corals is due primarily to the persistent release of very high nutrient-laden water into the nearshore environment arising from wastewater disposal and agricultural runoff into Florida Bay. The team concluded their work together on a reef in 70 feet of water 2 miles offshore from Hollywood, where Dr. Lapointe and Dr. Todd Kincaid of Project Baseline were taken to the wastewater outfall pipe aboard Project Baseline submersibles to view and discuss the impacts of wastewater discharge firsthand. "The problem has gotten so bad now, in South Florida, the Florida Keys now has less coral cover - living coral - than any reefs in the entire Caribbean region, less than 5 percent," said Dr. Lapointe. That small amount is in danger of disappearing altogether if the nutrient loading persists. Dr. Lapointe emphasized the need for the public to take an interest in the health of Florida's reefs.
Board & Staff | Reef Relief
Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University
Although run-off containing nutrients from agricultural fertilizers are often linked to these events, including red tides, a scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Brian Lapointe, has found a link to sewage.