The Waitt Institute and Dr. Stuart Sandin’s laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography collaborated to organize an expedition to conduct a rapid scientific assessment of the coral reefs around the windward Caribbean islands, namely Sint Maarten, Sint Eustatius, Saba, Redonda, and a submarine atoll, Saba Bank. To complement these efforts, the expedition was supported by the Government of Antigua and partners in the nearby Dutch-affiliated islands (St Eustatius, Saba, and St Maarten).
The collaboration is part of a larger effort to establish a regional scale perspective of coral reef health, investigating how reefs are structured, how they change over time, and how we can better manage them in the face of global change.
The research conducted during thiscruise aimed to investigate the independent and interactive effects of oceanography and human activities in affecting the structure and dynamics of coral reef communities. The survey design controls for within-island variables by conducting the core surveys within the same habitat type – forereef habitat at 7-15m depth. To assess the benthic and reef fish communities, the GCRMN methodology was utilized in conjunction with large-area ‘photomosaics’ to quantify the structure and the workings of each coral reef community at 1-2 km intervals surrounding each island.
To complement the ecological data colelcted, two sea temperature recorders (HOBO Pro v2 Logger) were deployed around each island. The temperature recorders were programmed to record the seawater temperature at an interval of thirty minutes. We expect to retrieve these recorders and download the temperature record in approximately 2 years.
Across the 4 islands and submarine atoll, 65 sites were surveyed. This effort resulted in a total of 325 fish and benthic transects, following the GCRMN guidelines. Additionally 38 photomosaics were imaged: 6 on Redonda, 11 on Sint Eustatius, 11 on Sint Maarten, 8 on Saba, and 2 on the Saba Bank.