Widespread local chronic stressors in Caribbean coastal habitats
Coastal ecosystems and the livelihoods they support are threatened by stressors acting at global and local scales. Here we used the data produced by the Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity program (CARICOMP), the longest, largest monitoring program in the wider Caribbean, to evidence local-scale (decreases in water quality) and global-scale (increases in temperature) stressors across the basin. Trend analyses showed that visibility decreased at 42% of the stations, indicating that local-scale chronic stressors are widespread. On the other hand, only 18% of the stations showed increases in water temperature that would be expected from global warming, partially reflecting the limits in detecting trends due to inher- ent natural variability of temperature data. Decreases in visibility were associated with increased human density. However, this link can be decoupled by environmental factors, with conditions that increase the flush of water, dampening the effects of human influence. Besides documenting environmental stressors throughout the basin, our results can be used to inform future monitoring programs, if the desire is to identify stations that provide early warning signals of anthropogenic impacts. All CARICOMP environmental data are now available, providing an invaluable baseline that can be used to strengthen research, conservation, and management of coastal ecosystems in the Caribbean basin.