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Cooperative coastal ecology at Caribbean marine laboratories

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Abstract

Co-operative research programmes in place include Caribbean Coastal Reef Ecosystems and Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity involving a co-operating network of marine laboratories. Such networks will be able to anticipate and study regional events on short and intermediate timescales. -J.G.Harvey

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... A second problem is that management-oriented marine ecosystem research is too often confined to single sites which may be the best-developed or the easiest to get to, but which are not representative of the range of development of the ecosystems being studied. Sites should be selected over the full range of development of the ecosystem and research should be of sufficient length to encompass the natural variation of those systems (Duarte et aI., 1992;Kenchington, 1990;Ogden, 1987). ...
... The station at Fowey Rocks recorded the only reliable over water wind gust of 167 mph for Hurricane Andrew before it failed on the morning of 24 August 1992. The comparative records of the stations at Fowey Rocks (ground zero), Molasses Reef (64 km south of storm track), Sombrero Reef (102 km south of storm track), and Sand Key (126 km south of storm track) show the concentrated nature of the storm ( Fig. 4; Ogden, 1992). ...
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The SEAKEYS (Sustained Ecological Research Related to Management of the Florida Keys Seascape) program is a research framework which encompasses the large geographic scale and long time scale of natural marine processes and ecosystem variation upon which human impact is superimposed. The need for interdisciplinary long-term research in coastal ecosystems is critical as we anticipate extraordinary resource management obligations and scientific opportunities in the next decade. The core of the program is six instrumented, satellite-linked monitoring stations which span the 220 mile-long coral reef tract and Florida Bay and which, since 1991, have documented the potential impact of summer heating, winter cold fronts, storms, and distant floods. Meso-scale physical oceanographic studies have documented the net flow of water from Florida Bay to Hawk Channel which provides a potential mechanism to link water quality in Florida Bay with the waters of Sanctuary. Water column and sediment nutrient studies have shown elevated nutrient levels in nearshore waters decreasing sharply to low levels near the offshore coral reef tract. There is a potential link of nearshore and offshore via a seaward deflection in the near-bottom flow. Regional nutrient dynamics are complicated by periodic upwelling driven by the Florida Current. A series of long-term photomosaic stations have tracked coral community dynamics for more than 5 years and have indicated a loss of over 40% in coral cover at some sites. This loss may be linked to declining water quality in Florida Bay. As a large marine ecosystem, the new Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and adjoining parks and reserves must be studied and managed holistically if human use of the region is to be sustained.
... Keywords: CARICOMP network, standardized monitoring, Caribbean, coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves, lessons learned A BRIEF HISTORY Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity (CARICOMP) was a regional cooperative scientific network of Caribbean marine laboratories, best known for its long-term monitoring program of coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves (CARICOMP, 1997a) (Figure 1). The network was established in 1985 as a response to the widespread observations of disturbing trends in the health of Caribbean coastal communities that emerged during the annual scientific meetings of the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC) (Ogden, 1987). Despite the knowledge at that time that these coastal marine ecosystems are generally linked and inter-dependent, most scientists were monitoring the structure and function of only one ecosystem, and there was no coordination, standardization of methods or synchronization of sampling among sites or studies. ...
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Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity (CARICOMP) was a basin-wide cooperative, international network of marine laboratories established in 1985. Recognizing major trends of change in coastal ecosystems and the importance of the linkages among them, our goal was to monitor synoptically with standardized methods the physical environment and to document trends in measures of the structure and functioning of coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves. Between 1985 and 1993, the CARICOMP Steering Committee established a data management center and wrote a methods manual. Marine laboratories joined the program by appointing a Site Director and signing an agreement specifying the cost sharing and responsibilities of the laboratory. With significant outside funding in 1992, the program became fully functional and ultimately more than 30 institutions in 21 Caribbean countries participated. Monitoring lasted from 1992 to 2007, spanning many technological advances including the internet, automated in situ data logging and remote sensing. Annual CARICOMP meetings, organized at a different laboratory each year, were essential in standardization of methods and maintaining interest. Open access to the data was a goal from the start, although the members imposed an embargo to allow time to publish major results. At some of the sites, monitoring continues to this day, generating among the longest coastal monitoring data sets in the Caribbean, and possibly in the world. Over time, multi-authored papers were prepared for the Proceedings of the International Coral Reef Symposia and other journals, and independent scientists drew on the open database for regional analyses of ecosystem trends. Recently, active members have written summary papers based on the monitoring data covering physical parameters, coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves. Overall, the data reveal major differences across the region and changing rates and trends showing the dynamism and vulnerability of coastal ecosystems. The longer the monitoring continues, the more valuable the dataset becomes as a tool to discern the underlying factors driving the structure and functioning of Caribbean coastal ecosystems. Several recent workshops have concluded that the need for regionally cooperative monitoring and research has never been greater.
... Despite the economic importance of biodiversity, the anthropogenic degradation of coastal and marine resources is a serious problem in every Caribbean island (Richards & Bohnsack, 1990;Ogden, 1987). Activities such as beach sand mining, removal of mangroves, destruction of seagrass beds and coral reefs, and overfishing have become serious issues in almost every Caribbean island over the last several decades. ...
... The CARICOMP Example. The Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity (CARICOMP) programme provides an example of the arganization of a regional network of marine laboratories for the investigation of marine biodiversity (Ogden 1987). Pt began in 1985 with the support of UNESCO's êoastal-Marine Programme (COMAR), in response to a widely perceived need for regional understanding of the long-term dynamics of coastal ecosystems upon which increasing kuman impact was superimposed. ...
... Despite the economic importance of biodiversity, the anthropogenic degradation of coastal and marine resources is a serious problem in every Caribbean island (Richards & Bohnsack, 1990;Ogden, 1987). Activities such as beach sand mining, removal of mangroves, destruction of seagrass beds and coral reefs, and overfishing have become serious issues in almost every Caribbean island over the last several decades. ...
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The article" Catastrophes, phase shifts,and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef" by Terence P. Hughes (9 Sept., p.1547) relates the sad story of the decline of scleractinian coral populations in Jamaica over the past two decades. The article is a rare example of the long-term research needed to document trends on reefs; however, the monitoring program design appears to have excluded at least one potentially important causal factor, and the solution offered does not address sociopolitical reality. The data in the study by Hughes show a rapid decline of coral populations initiated by a 1980 hurricane. Coral cover declined further after the reduction of an herbivorous sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, resulting from disease, while the cover of fleshy macro-algae bloomed. Thus two natural events, hurricanes and disease, have decimated Jamaica's coral reefs. It is not clear what effect human activities have had on fleshy algae on these reefs and what, if anything, we can do to help the coral.
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The Caribbean Sea and its watersheds show signs of environmental degradation. These fragile coastal ecosystems are susceptible to environmental impacts, in part because of their oligotrophic conditions and their critical support of economic development. Tourism is one of the major sources of income in the Caribbean, making the region one of the most ecotourism dependent in the world. Yet there are few explicit, long-term, comprehensive studies describing the structure and function of Caribbean ecosystems. We propose a conceptual framework using the environmental signature hypothesis of tropical coastal settings to develop a series of research questions for the reef–sea-grass–wetland seascape. We applied this approach across 13 sites throughout the region, including ecosystems in a variety of coastal settings with different vulnerabilities to environmental impacts. This approach follows the strategy developed by the Long Term Ecological Research program of the National Science Foundation to establish ecological research questions best studied over decades and large spatial areas.
Article
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CARICOMP is a regional scientific program to study land-sea interaction processes in the Caribbean coastal zone. It has been collecting data since 1992, when a Data Management Centre was established at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. Initially it focuses on documenting the structure and productivity of major coastal communities (mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs) at relatively undisturbed sites in diverse physical settings. Second, by regular recording of physical and biological parameters, it monitors for change, seeking to distinguish natural from anthropogenic disturbance. Third, it constitutes a regional network of observers, able to collaborate on studies of region-wide events. Examples are presented of the diverse data sets collected by the Program.
Article
Beach monitoring data are presented and show an average beach erosion trend of 0.5 m yr −1 in eight Caribbean islands over the period 1985–2000, with elevated rates in those islands impacted by a higher number of hurricanes. The data are based on 5 to 15 years of continuous monitoring, conducted at three-month intervals, at 113 beaches (200 profile sites) on eight islands, using standard methodology. The causes of the erosion are discussed and include anthropogenic factors, climate variability and projected climate change. Based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for the Caribbean region, and the likely increase of anthropogenic stresses such as coastal development, it is likely that the beach erosion trend will continue and increase. Nonexclusive approaches to help beaches adapt to climate change include structural, planning or ecological measures. Two case studies illustrating climate change adaptation measures are discussed, one focuses on coastal planning measures in Anguilla and Nevis, and the second focuses on ecological measures, specifically the rehabilitation of a coastal forest in Puerto Rico. These case studies have not reached a stage where their effectiveness can be evaluated, however preliminary outcomes show that community-based climate change adaptation measures require careful planning such that the entire community is involved in a participatory manner and sufficient time is allocated for awareness-raising, information-sharing and discussion.
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A three step decision-making process is advocated for coral reef managers which (1) evaluates an area at risk, (2) quantifies the risk, and (3) assesses recoverability and consequences in terms of ecological succession and bioconstruction. The judgements required at each stage of the decision-making process should be based on a clear understanding of their ecological and geomorphological implications. Biodiversity and bioconstruction criteria are used to evaluate locations on a five point scale. Ecological risk assessment assigns likelihoods for various damage scenarios. Acceptable change is scale and context dependent and ranges from zero to complete, depending on ecological value and alternate values. Three questions need to be addressed in relation to recoverability of damaged sites: (1) effects on future suitability for settlement, growth and/or repair, (2) certainty of supply of appropriate propagules; and (3) identifiable, on site ecological factors (such as predators, competitors, diseases) which may prevent recovery.
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