A single shipwrecked vessel, composed of teak and iron-rich machinery, has turned the once amazing Kingman Reef (2000km south of Hawaii) into a Black Reef, surrounded by murky waters with dark slime and algae blooms.
The shipwreck itself is a mystery, as there were apparently no survivors nor victims, and no identifying marks on the vessel. What has become less of a mystery, however, is the cause of the Kingman Reef’s death.
A study published in The ISME Journal states that iron is being slowly released from the shipwreck and is acting as a fertilizer—only not for the coral. The iron feeds a new algae bloom and other microbes that are coating the reef, clouding the water, and slowly killing the once brilliantly colored corals. Many reefs and oceanic regions have naturally low levels of iron, which makes them more susceptible to shipwrecks which contain the metal.
William Chandler of the Marine Conservation Institute states that “shipwrecks located in iron-poor regions of the Pacific must be removed immediately to protect the integrity and viability of coral reef ecosystems.”
Two additional shipwrecks have been found within a Wildlife Refuge managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are within the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, a 12 mile refuge, and have not been removed to date.
Without the wrecks being removed, the surrounding areas are likely to have the same fate of the Kingman Reef. Iron fertilizes the water, algae and microbe blooms darken the water, and new algae growth carpets the coral, a resulting in the death of yet another reef environment.
Read more at National Geographic.