Longterm Monitoring & assessments of ecological change in nearshore coral reef systems in Eleuthera
Coral reefs are the most diverse and species rich marine ecosystems on the planet, yet occupy less than 1% of global ocean surface. It is estimated that 25% of all ocean creatures rely on these coral reefs for a variety of functions, including protection from predators, living space and food. We also rely on coral reefs for a range of services as reef structures protect coastlines, provide food for us, and in certain parts of the developing world, tourism relies heavily on healthy coral reef ecosystems.
Despite the critical functions reefs provide, they are facing one of the greatest declines in modern environmental history, brought about through degradation associated with impacts such as overfishing, pollution, invasive species and increased ocean temperatures that lead to bleaching events and increased acidification, preventing corals from building their resilient carbonate skeletons. Reef building or hermatypic corals that form these biogenic structures are found in shallow water as they rely on light to photosynthesize, and therefore are particularly vulnerable to human activities.
The Caribbean region has been impacted by significant coral reef declines of up to 50% since 1970 as decreases in the abundance of grazing taxa such as urchins and parrotfishes is realised. Like most reefs throughout the world, human pressures such as tourism and coastal development, are exacerbating these declines and current information is required to mitigate or reverse these declines.
The Centre for Ocean Research and Education will create an education program based on long term monitoring of coastal coral reef ecosystems in north Eleuthera in order to understand processes critical to their survival, and which will be run as an educational conduit for local Bahamian students.
We intend to establish an artificial reef off the coast of north Eleuthera and create long term monitoring projects with school groups, each building on various elements of scientific enquiry specific to the reef. This will be a community project, targeted at Bahamian students and will not only serve as a viable project for coral reef restoration work, but will further allow applied marine research concepts to be taught, such as study design, sampling methodologies, analytical methods and ultimately the writing and communication of results.
Updates on this project can be found here and on our Instagram Page. Please contact us through our website for further information!