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Update on Coral-Reef Research in Honduras

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Coral competitors:

Algae on coral head
Above: Algae coating on Siderastrea sp.

brown encrusting sponge
Above: Brown encrusting sponge.

tunicate infesting Diploria
Above: A tunicate occupying the base of a species of Diploria.

Bob Halley, Don Hickey, and Chris Reich (SPFC) welcomed Dr. Carlos Garcia-Saez, Director of the Cayos Cochinos Biological Reserve Station, to the SPFC during the first week of March. The purpose for this visit was twofold: (1) to discuss plans for our March/April trip to Honduras and (2) to meet with some of the SPFC's computer and GIS specialists.

Thanks go to Rob Wertz and Lance Thornton for taking time out of their busy schedules to present Carlos with a vast number of computer and digitizing options. Thanks also go to Kristy Guy for spending several days guiding Carlos through the ARCVIEW software. With this knowledge, the future GIS lab in Cayos Cochinos can be designed with the most up-to-date software and hardware.

Accomplishments from the March 28-April 15 field work:

  • Two Sea-Bird data loggers were successfully installed on the shallow reef (6 m): one at Cayos Cochinos and the other at Roatán. The loggers will record temperature, salinity, and light (as photosynthetically active radiation; PAR). The instruments will assist in identifying variables that can affect the health of reef corals, such as upwelling events, and freshwater influx and increased sediment load from the mainland. With the cooperation of recent graduates from the National University of Honduras stationed at Cayos Cochinos and a volunteer at the Roatán Institute of Marine Science, we will have help maintaining the light sensors at both sites.

  • housing for Sea Bird data logger
    Setting up shop: Permananent housing for Sea-Bird data logger. PVC housing is cemented to sea floor and Sea-Bird is secured inside.
    Recovered six thermographs placed on shallow and deep reefs around Cayos Cochinos. Although four of the six had malfunctioned, we were able to download data from two shallow sites. These data (see graph below) show that during early October surface-water temperatures were above coral-threshold temperature (~30°C). Above this temperature, corals can become stressed and can expel their symbiotic algae, resulting in a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Extended periods of high water temperature result in increased mortality of reef corals if they do not recover the algae.

  • The overall impression of the reefs in Honduras is that they are doing better than most elsewhere in the upper Caribbean basin. We were pleased to have observed new recruits of Acropora palmata and Agaricia sp. and few incidences of disease. However, a brown alga (e.g., Lobophora sp.) was widespread at both shallow and deep reef sites. We also noted three primary invaders compromising coral health at both Cayos Cochinos and Roatán: (1) algal coatings, (2) a brown encrusting species of sponge, and (3) a white tunicate.

Sea-surface temperature plot
Sea-Surface Temperature: Six-month record of sea-surface temperature from a shallow reef site near the Cayos Cochinos Research Station. Note extremely high water temperatures during early October 1999.

A visit to the USAID (US Agency for International Development) office in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, was arranged before returning to St. Petersburg. Bob gave a presentation on the status of this project to Mr. Joe Lombardo, deputy mission director for USAID/Honduras, and to Dr. Mark Smith, hydrologist with the USGS.

The next return trip is scheduled for August/September 2000.

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
NY Bight Cruise

Honduras Coral Reefs

Outreach Letter to the Editor

Nat'l Ocean Sciences Bowl Winner

Earth Day, Tampa Bay

Meetings Gulf of Mexico

Great Lakes Mapping

Interagency Pollution Work

Awards Edgar Receives RSAS Award

Shinn, Reich, & Hickey Receive SEPM Award

Work With High School Students

Staff & Center News New Post-Doc

New ECO Interns at WHFC

Talk by Richie Williams

Ellen Mecray Completes Boston Marathon


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