Blue Ocean Institute pleased to announce that Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund recently awarded us a $23,300 grant to study climate change effects on Caribbean sponge species and identify hardy species that can be farmed to provide an alternative commercial industry
The Conserving Climate-Resistant Caribbean Sponges project, headed by Dr. Alan Duckworth, is an innovative research program that will provide long-term sustainable solutions for one of the world's most threatened ecosystems-coral reefs-and the local communities that depend upon them.
As climate change results in warmer, more acidic oceans, all marine life is affected. It is well-known that coral health declines under these conditions, but the effect on sponges-vital components of coral reefs-is largely unknown.
Declines in sponge health from climate change could severely reduce the biodiversity of these unique ecosystems. Sponges filter and clean the water, provide habitat for commercially important species like juvenile lobsters, and serve as food for many fish and turtles. Loss of sponges would not only negatively impact marine life, but also local communities that depend on reefs for coastal protection, food, and the diving and tourism industries.
Our project will provide essential scientific information about climate change effects on coral reef sponges and develop good farming methods to commercially farm "bath sponges." Overall, this program will allow Caribbean countries to better manage their coral reefs and help develop an alternative and environmentally-friendly industry for coastal communities.
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