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Hybrid Corals Could Hold the Key to Reef Restoration 

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Bahamas-based research says there are many factors to consider 

#TheBahamas, September 9, 2021 – With nearly 27 percent of the world’s coral reefs lost to destructive events and stressors, a newly released study suggests hybridization – a mesh of different species – could save one of the world’s most important and threatened marine ecosystems.

Research published in the journal, Frontiers in Marine Science, found a naturally occurring hybrid coral and its fragmented sections are more resilient and grow rapidly in comparison to its parental species. The study suggests restoration managers use the hybrid, commonly called fused staghorn coral, to outplant degraded reefs and increase the scale of coral nursery projects.

“Coral restoration research by the Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) and its partners demonstrates how we can bring back populations of critically endangered coral species in The Bahamas and help them adapt to their changing climate to prevent them from going extinct,” said Dr Craig Dahlgren, PIMS’ executive director who’s an expert in tropical marine ecosystems.

In the study, “Should Hybrids Be Used in Coral Nurseries?” PIMS identified hybrids’ untapped potential, alongside researchers from Florida’s Nova Southeastern University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The study was conducted at three nurseries on Great Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands from June 2018 to July 2019.

The problem with coral reef ecosystems lie in their decades long decline due to rising sea temperatures, increased disease prevalence, pollution, overfishing, climate change and the like. Finding ways of protecting these natural resources is critical to the continuity of life around the world.

That’s because coral reefs host a range of ecologically and commercially important marine species. They are essential nursery grounds for numerous fish and invertebrates. They protect coastlines from storm damage and support an extensive tourism industry for many island nations like The Bahamas.

To facilitate coral reef recovery and increase abundance and genetic diversity, many conservation organizations throughout the Caribbean create and maintain coral nurseries, sheltered areas for corals to grow faster away from the reef and predators. In this “coral gardening” method, nursery grown reefs are transferred to the ocean during large-scale restoration efforts. PIMS and its coral restoration branch, the Reef Rescue Network, manages 27 coral nurseries on islands in The Bahamas alone.

The study investigated factors that may influence growth and survival of threatened Caribbean coral species and their naturally occurring hybrid at the Reef Rescue Network’s Berry Islands’ nurseries in central Bahamas. One of the study’s main funders, Norwegian Cruise Line, maintains these private nurseries for conservation and research with Nova Southeastern University.

Researchers found nursery locations with optimal depth, moderate water flow, some light and a limited range of temperatures will likely lead to the most successful coral fragment survival and growth.

Of the initial 157 fragments, 66 (or 42 percent) survived to the end of the 13-month study period. For those that didn’t survive, most were lost at the beginning of the research, likely due to the shock of relocation.

The research was the first to examine differences in the survival and growth between the parents and the hybrid of Caribbean acroporid corals in a nursery setting, along with differences among coral fragment placed in the same locations.

“For coral species that are on the verge of extinction in The Bahamas, growing corals in nurseries is a viable means of preserving genetics, repopulating reefs with these species, and providing habitat to the abundance of life that depends on coral reefs,” said Dr Dahlgran who along with his staff helped to obtain permits for the project, assisted with scouting and setting up nursery sites, coral collections and transportation to the nurseries.

While the parental species have been in decline, the hybrid has persisted on many reefs in the Caribbean with equal or increased abundance, better survival, and equal or less susceptibility to disease and other environmental pressures.

Scientists are therefore convinced “the benefits of including fast-growing hybrid coral to quickly increase reef structure likely outweighs the potential long-term drawbacks.”

Nevertheless, there is at least one concern. Hybrids could potentially reduce genetic diversity since their quick growth and resilience might disrupt the natural order of things.

“Concerns about genetic swamping of the parental species on evolutionary scales must not outweigh the immediate ecological need for shallow coral reefs, particularly when the state of coral reefs is dire,” the report read.

Researchers believe coral species separated by habitat type and depth could help mitigate this potential problem. The study recommended, “outplanting A. prolifera to shallow back reef areas, A. palmata along reef crests, and A. cervicornis to deeper reef slopes.” Prolifera is the hybrid. Palmata is the critical endangered elkhorn coral and cervicornis is the staghorn coral; both of which are the hybrid’s parents.

The research also noted a major difference between parents and hybrid.

“The hybrid is likely to reach outplanting goals by quickly increasing coral biomass and reef structure, albeit the fused branches of the hybrid taxon may provide a different ecological service than the parental species,” the report read.

“For example, the structure of A. palmata serves as a place for larger fish and invertebrates to live and hide. In contrast, the hybrid’s fused branches are more compact, and may be more beneficial to the smaller fish and invertebrates.”

 

Photo Caption: New research published in the journal, Frontiers in Marine Science, was the first to examine differences in the survival and growth between the parents and the hybrid of Caribbean acroporid corals in a nursery setting. Pictured here is a closer look at the nursery line. The parent species, Acropora palmata (right middle), is ideal for larger fish and invertebrates to live and hide. In contrast, the hybrid’s more compact, fused branches (left) are better suited to smaller fish and invertebrates.

Photo courtesy of PIMS via Precision Media 

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Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance.  The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections.  However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.

68,000 STAYED AWAY

While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.

However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.

PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER

This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.

Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

It could also be voter apathy.

BEST IN SHOW

Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.

North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.

VERY LOW SHOW

The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and   Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).

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BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.

The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.

“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”

Among the new Ministers sworn-in on Monday were:

  • Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
  • Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
  • Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
  • Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
  • Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
  • Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
  • Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
  • Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
  • Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.

“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.

Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.

“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are here to meet them head on.”

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Prime Minister Hon. Philip Davis pledges to govern in the interests of all Bahamians

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#TheBahamas, September 19, 2021 – During his ceremonial swearing-in today as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister, Hon. Philip Davis pledged to govern in the interests of all Bahamians and to consult widely with the Bahamian people.

The best way to make progress as a nation is to bring people together, said Prime Minister Davis, who was presented with his instruments of Office in ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Centre, on Saturday 18 September 2021.

Prime Minister Davis was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on Friday 17 September 2021 at the Office of the Governor General.

“We will uphold the constitution and the rule of law, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly, so that it’s not one rule for one set of people, and another for another set of people,” said the Prime Minister.

“There is much work to be done; but I know that by working together we can succeed and build the kind of prosperous, independent Bahamas that our founding fathers dreamed for us.”

Prime Minister Davis said that while there are big challenges ahead for The Bahamas, his team has the right vision and policies to take the country forward.

The Prime Minister said the new administration is coming into office at a time when the Bahamian people are hurting as never before.

The country faces many crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an economy in decline and deeply concerning challenges in education, said Prime Minister Davis.

If everyone works together towards a common purpose, in the common interest and for the common good, great things are possible for The Bahamas and its people, said the Prime Minister.

But no government can do great things on its own, Prime Minister Davis added.

“I am sure that my government can only succeed if we partner with the Bahamian people,” said the Prime Minister.
“We are going to listen, we are going to consult widely and we are going to bring people together.”

_
18 September 2021
Office of the Prime Minister
Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Contact: opmcommunications@bahamas.gov.bs
Website: opm.gov.bs

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