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Honduras Coral-Reef Documentary Online

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Online Documentary - Coral Reefs in Honduras: Status After Hurricane Mitch
Watch the documentary online
A new documentary short film is available online detailing work conducted by USGS scientists in St. Petersburg, FL, to assess the impact of Hurricane Mitch on coral reefs off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. The eight-and-a-half minute video, entitled "Coral Reefs in Honduras: Status After Hurricane Mitch," features geologist Bob Halley describing the assessment effort and its results. Aerial and underwater footage of the affected areas highlights the story.

Hurricane Mitch became the fourth strongest Atlantic hurricane on record on October 25, 1998, attaining top sustained winds higher than 180 mph and generating estimated wave heights of 50 ft (15 m). The powerful storm's path through Central America made it the deadliest hurricane since 1780, leaving more than 11,000 dead and 2 million homeless. On October 27 and 28, 1998, just before landfall in mainland Honduras, Hurricane Mitch, then a Category 4 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, passed over coral reefs at Roat‡n and Cayos Cochinos.

map and aerial photograph of the locations of the coral reefs off the northern coast of Honduras that were assessed in this study
Map (top) shows the path of Hurricane Mitch and locations of Roat‡n and Cayos Cochinos off the Caribbean coast of mainland Honduras. Aerial photograph (bottom) shows location of coral-monitoring stations (yellow squares) in Cayos Cochinos Biological Reserve.
In October 1999, Bob Halley, Don Hickey, and Chris Reich made their initial visit to assess the coral reefs (see related stories in the November 1999, May 2000, and January 2002 issues of Sound Waves). The storm appeared to have done little physical damage to the reefs. However, driven by heavy rainfall, influx of river-borne freshwater and nutrient-rich sediment onto the reefs had touched off widespread coral disease, particularly black-band disease.

But Mitch also surprisingly aided the reefs. The 1997-98 El Ni–o had raised sea-surface temperatures, stressing the corals and causing bleaching—expulsion of the symbiotic plantlike zooxanthellae that live within the coral tissue. Prolonged periods of bleaching may lead to increased coral fatality. In passing over the reef areas, Mitch reduced the water temperature by about 1¡C, preventing a bleaching episode that killed as much as 50 percent of the live corals elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Terry Edgar provided the narration, and Tim Holmes produced the documentary. Tim's time in St. Petersburg was invaluable; he also produced the documentary short film "The Effects of Globally Transported African and Asian Dust on Coral Reef and Human Health" (also narrated by Terry Edgar and available online) for the Coral Mortality and African Dust project. Tim has since returned to Los Angeles to resume work on his own film projects.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USAID/USGS/Honduras Hurricane Mitch Program: Coral Reef Health in the Bay Islands of Honduras
January 2002
Update on Coral-Reef Research in Honduras
May 2000
USGS Evaluates and Establishes Monitoring Station at Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
November 1999

Related Web Sites
Online Documentary - Coral Reefs in Honduras: Status After Hurricane Mitch
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Online Documentary - The Effects of Globally Transported African and Asian Dust on Coral Reef and Human Health
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Contaminants Sampling Cruise - San Francisco

Ground-Truthing Coral Reef Maps

Research Shorebird Migration

CO2 in Saline Aquifers

Outreach Early Earth Day in Florida

Honduras Coral Reef Documentary Online

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University Job Fair

Sea-Level Rise Lecture

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Staff & Center News Floating Support Facility

Howell New Patuxent Director

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