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UB geologist assesses hurricane-damaged corals

Hurricane damage to coral reefs off the coast of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands varied by location, with some areas suffering severe injury, according to a University at Buffalo geology professor who helped assessed the damage in late November.

Professor Howard Lasker spent two weeks aboard a research vessel to study coral reef in an area of the Caribbean hit hard by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.

Researchers found some coral colonies that had been wiped out, others that lost branches and some covered with algal growth. Looking forward, scientists now have a rare opportunity to examine how coral reefs recover from disasters.

"You could not, in good conscience, conduct such an experiment on your own as a scientist, and it is sad to see these beautiful places in the ocean damaged so severely. But we can learn from this – it gives us the chance to better understand the process of recovery," Lasker told UB News Service.

Coral reefs – essential habitats for fish and other aquatic life – are increasingly under stress as ocean temperatures rise. Researchers want to better understand how they change and recover after disasters.

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