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.
The CARICOMP monitoring network gathered standardized data from 52 seagrass sampling stations at 22 sites (mostly Thalassia testudinum-dominated beds in reef systems) across the Wider Caribbean twice a year over the period 1993 to 2007 (and in some cases up to 2012). Wide variations in community total biomass (285 to .2000 g dry m22) and annual foliar productivity of the dominant seagrass T. testudinum (,200 and .2000 g dry m22) were found among sites. Solar-cycle related intra-annual variations in T. testudinum leaf productivity were detected at latitudes . 16uN. Hurricanes had little to no long-term effects on these well-developed seagrass communities, except for 1 station, where the vegetation was lost by burial below ,1 m sand. At two sites (5 stations), the seagrass beds collapsed due to excessive grazing by turtles or sea- urchins (the latter in combination with human impact and storms). The low-cost methods of this regional-scale monitoring program were sufficient to detect long-term shifts in the communities, and fifteen (43%) out of 35 long-term monitoring stations (at 17 sites) showed trends in seagrass communities consistent with expected changes under environmental deterioration.