"Why Some Corals Are Better Off Dead"

"As scientists rush to save ailing corals elsewhere, in Venezuela locals are trying to kill off this stinky variety."

"VALLE SECO, Venezuela — Estrella Villamizar grabbed the soft red and white coral by its stem and hacked it off with a blow of her wooden knife before tossing it in a bucket with other pieces she’d already ripped out of the Caribbean waters lapping against this deserted beach.

On the sea bed, stretching for a distance as far as the eye could see, a blanket of the dark coral swayed in the warm current.

As ocean temperatures reach record highs, scientists elsewhere have been rushing to save reefs, moving coral to land nurseries to preserve it and dreaming up novel ways to cool it off at sea. But here in Venezuela, reefs face a different kind of lethal threat: Unomia stolonifera, an invasive coral species that is smothering native varieties.

Hailing from Indonesia, the slimy cauliflower-looking coral has expanded across the shores of four states in Venezuela, covering at least some 1,000 square miles.

“At this point, it is almost certain that it will invade the entirety of the Caribbean,” says Villamizar, a tropical ecology professor at the Central University of Venezuela."

Camille Rodriguez Montilla reports for the Washington Post May 5, 2024.

Source: Washington Post, 05/06/2024