Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Corals at Tague Bay Reef and Buck Island National Monument Reef St. Croix, USVI
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Caribbean reefs have suffered a 40% loss of coral cover since the 1970s (Aronson and Precht, 2006). Many reefs are experiencing a shift from a coral dominated system to a community dominated by algae, weedy corals and soft corals (Pandolfi et al., 2005; Hughes et al., 2003). Around the world, local management strategies have been implemented to reduce anthropogenic influences including coastal management efforts and marine protection through “no take zones” (Pandolfi et al., 2005). This paper analyzes coral cover of two reefs, Tague Bay and Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix, USVI. Comparison was conducted because Buck Island National Monument has been protected since 1961, while Tague Bay is not protected and is closer in proximity to mainland St. Croix. The reef community structure was analyzed using data collected in July and August of 2007 at seven different sites. This information was compared to data from the last thirty-one years and to geologic data from cores that represent the reefs throughout the Holocene (Hubbard et al., 2005). By comparing the modern reef data to the cores we hope to understand if the current decline of the reefs is unusual or due to the natural cycle of the reef. Buck Island reef has been in decline since monitoring began in 1976 (Hubbard et al., 2005). The historical data from Buck Island reef represents a once more productive reef, with a live coral cover of about 52.4% in 1976 (Hubbard et al., 2005). Today, live coral cover of Buck Island is 13.4% and Tague Bay is 12.4% On both reefs, hurricane damage led to significant decreases in live coral. However, other larger scale influences acting on the reefs, including global warming, disease and the Caribbean wide decline of Diadema, effect the survival of the corals on both reefs. The cores from Buck Island and Tague Bay reefs were dominated by Acropora palmata and Montastraea spp. In contrast, non-framework builders dominate the modern reefs. At Buck Island, the dominant live species was P. porites and Tague Bay, live coral was dominated by P. asteroities. The implications of such community shifts are unknown, however through increased monitoring, a sense of the impacts can be understood. The St. Croix reefs are representative of changes occurring throughout reefs in the Caribbean.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2008
- F&M Theses Collection