Palmyra Atoll

Sunken ship Redux: wreckage may do morehrm than good

Wreck pollution

From Discover

Yesterday we wondered whether the U.S. Navy’s plan to intentionally sink some of its old warships, so that they’d become new homes for fish and attractions for recreational divers, would be such a great idea in the long run.

Today, a new study looking at a different shipwreck suggests that not only might intentionally sinking old ships be a bad idea, but officials might have to remove shipwrecks from sensitive ecosystems before they cause too much harm.

Back in 1991, a 100-foot-long ship sank in Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge near Hawaii. Now, 17 years later, scientists studying the area say the coral reef is under attack by an organism called Rhodactis howesii.

It is a corallimorph, a relative to anemones and corals that clears out competitors with it stinging tentacles. Rhodactis is an invasive species to the Palmyra Atoll, and it doubled its presence between 2006 and 2007, pushing out the diverse mix of corals that is native there.