As Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, it brought torrential downpour and dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of water over the area, which ultimately ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. This resulted in a 10% drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.
Researchers say that this freshwater could be harming coral reefs, which require saltwater to live. “The salinity at one buoy on the reef dropped from 36 to 32 on Sept. 28, but it rebounded to 36 by Oct. 4, and it has been between 35 and 36 since then,” said Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa. “We don’t yet know what impact the low salinity had on the reef while it was there.”
Correa hopes Harvey’s floodwater plume continues to travel down the coast to the southwest so it will miss the fragile reefs, since direct hit of floodwater would likely devastate the reefs. However, she pointed out that even without a direct hit, it is possible that eddies and steering currents in the coming months could bring enough floodwater to the reefs to reduce salinity to dangerous levels.
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