Effective assessments of the status of Caribbean fish communities require historical baselines to adequately understand how much fish communities have changed through time. To identify such changes and their causes, we compiled a historical overview using data collected at the beginning (1905–1908), middle (1958–1965) and end (1984–2016) of the 20th century, of the artisanal fishing practices and their effects on fish populations around Curaçao, a small island in the southern Caribbean. We documented historical trends in total catch, species composition, and catch sizes per fisher per month for different types of fisheries and related these to technological and environmental changes affecting the island’s fisheries and fish communities. We found that since 1905, fishers targeted species increasingly farther from shore after species occurring closer to shore had become rare. This resulted in surprisingly similar catches in terms of weight, but not composition. Large predatory reef fishes living close to shore (e.g., large Epinephelid species) had virtually disappeared from catches around the mid-20th century, questioning the use of data from this period as baseline data for modern day fish assessments. Secondly, we compared fish landings to in-situ counts from 1969 to estimate the relative contributions of habitat destruction and overfishing to the changes in fish abundance around Curaçao. The decline in coral dominated reef communities corresponded to a concurrent decrease in the abundance and diversity of smaller reef fish species not targeted by fishers, suggesting habitat loss, in addition to fishing, caused the observed declines in reef fish abundance around Curaçao.
Studies on coral reefs increasingly combine aspects of science and technology to understand the complex dynamics and processes that shape these benthic ecosystems. Recently, the use of advanced computational algorithms has entered coral reef science as new powerful tools that help solve complex coral reef related questions, which were unsolvable just a decade earlier. Some of these advanced algorithms consist of Computational Intelligence (CI) approaches, a branch of Artificial Intelligence that uses intelligent systems to address complex real-world problems yielding more robust, tractable and simpler solutions than those obtained by conventional mathematical techniques. This paper describes the most commonly used CI techniques related to coral reefs and the main improvements obtained with these methods over classical algorithms in this field. Some recommendations are given for the application of CI techniques to complex coral reef related problems, and vice-versa, for the application of novel coral reef dynamics concepts to improve the Coral Reef Optimization (CRO) algorithm, an optimization method inspired by coral reef dynamics.
Microbial viruses can control host abundances via density-dependent lytic predator-prey dynamics. Less clear is how temperate viruses, which coexist and replicate with their host, influence microbial communities. Here we show that virus-like particles are relatively less abundant at high host densities. This suggests suppressed lysis where established models predict lytic dynamics are favoured. Meta-analysis of published viral and microbial densities showed that this trend was widespread in diverse ecosystems ranging from soil to freshwater to human lungs. Experimental manipulations showed viral densities more consistent with temperate than lytic life cycles at increasing microbial abundance. An analysis of 24 coral reef viromes showed a relative increase in the abundance of hallmark genes encoded by temperate viruses with increased microbial abundance. Based on these four lines of evidence, we propose the Piggyback-the-Winner model wherein temperate dynamics become increasingly important in ecosystems with high microbial densities; thus 'more microbes, fewer viruses'.
The natural beauty of coral reefs attracts millions of tourists worldwide resulting in substantial revenues for the adjoining economies. Although their visual appearance is a pivotal factor attracting humans to coral reefs current monitoring protocols exclusively target biogeochemical parameters, neglecting changes in their aesthetic appearance. Here we introduce a standardized computational approach to assess coral reef environments based on 109 visual features designed to evaluate the aesthetic appearance of art. The main feature groups include color intensity and diversity of the image, relative size, color, and distribution of discernable objects within the image, and texture. Speci c coral reef aesthetic values combining all 109 features were calibrated against an established biogeochemical assessment (NCEAS) using machine learning algorithms. These values were generated for ∼2,100 random photographic images collected from 9 coral reef locations exposed to varying levels of anthropogenic in uence across 2 ocean systems. Aesthetic values proved accurate predictors of the NCEAS scores (root mean square error < 5 for N ≥ 3) and signi cantly correlated to microbial abundance at each site. This shows that mathematical approaches designed to assess the aesthetic appearance of photographic images can be used as an inexpensive monitoring tool for coral reef ecosystems. It further suggests that human perception of aesthetics is not purely subjective but in uenced by inherent reactions towards measurable visual cues. By quantifying aesthetic features of coral reef systems this method provides a cost e cient monitoring tool that targets one of the most important socioeconomic values of coral reefs directly tied to revenue for its local population.
Rehabilitating populations of Caribbean coral species that have declined in recent decades has become a management priority throughout the region, stimulating the development of new methodologies to arti cially reseed degraded reefs. Rearing lar- vae of ecologically important coral species appears a particularly attractive method to aid the recovery of degraded populations because genetic recombination could yield new genotypes better capable of coping with the altered conditions on modern Caribbean reefs. Well-developed elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata Lamarck, 1816) populations form dense thickets that contribute to the maintenance of healthy and productive reefs by providing shelter to a variety of other reef organisms (Gladfelter and Gladfelter 1978). After >95% of A. palmata populations were decimated by a disease beginning in the mid-1970s, this species was listed as critically endangered under the Red List of threatened Species (IUCN 2013) and restoration e orts were initiated throughout the region to assist its recovery (Young et al. 2012). In 2011, we collected gametes from eight A. palmata colonies in situ o Curaçao, which were subsequently cross-fertilized to generate larvae. Competent larvae were settled on clay tiles (Panel A) and reared in a ow-through land-based nursery for one year (Panels B–C), after which they were outplanted to a breakwater at 2–5 m depth (Panel D) [refer to Chamberland et al. (2015) for details on methodology]. Seven out of nine outplanted colonies survived and continued to grow in situ (Panels D–E), reaching a size of 30–40 cm diameter and 20–30 cm height after 4 yrs (Panel F). On 8 and 10 September, 2015, nine and 11 d after the full moon, two colonies were ob- served releasing gametes between 155 and 175 min after sunset (Panels G–H). is is the rst time that an endangered Caribbean Acropora coral species was raised from larvae and grown to sexual maturity in the eld. Indeed, only one other study has documented age and colony size at reproductive onset in a broadcast spawning scler- actinian coral reared from larvae (Baria et al. 2012). e relatively short time until onset of spawning (≤4 yrs) observed for A. palmata shows that recovery of degraded coral populations by enhancing natural recruitment rates may be practicable if out- planted colonies are able to rapidly contribute to the natural pool of larvae.
Snails of the genus Coralliophila (Muricidae: Coralliophilinae) are common in the Caribbean as corallivores that feed on a large range of host species. The present study concerns the distribution of two Coralliophila snails, C. caribaeaand C. galea, at 5-m and 10-m depths at Curaçao (southern Caribbean), as associates of the common scleractinians Orbicella annularis and Pseudodiploria strigosa. Coralliophila galea was abundant on both host species, while C. caribaea was represented only by a single individual on a colony of P. strigosa. No significant differences in shell length were found between snails associated with O. annularis and P. strigosa. The distribution of C. galea on both host species deviated significantly from a random distribution. The snails were most abundant at 5-m depth, particularly on larger colonies of O. annularis, with > 60 % of large colonies colonized by snails, while snails were absent on small colonies. This distinction was not significant in P. strigosa at the same depth or in O. annularis at a depth of 10 m. The results suggest that host preference should be considered in assessments of reef health in connection to damage caused by Coralliophila spp.
Turf algae are multispecies communities of small marine macrophytes that are becoming a dominant component of coral reef communities around the world. To assess the impact of turf algae on corals, we investigated the effects of increased nutrients (eutrophication) on the interaction between the Caribbean coral Montastraea annularis and turf algae at their growth boundary. We also assessed whether herbivores are capable of reducing the abundance of turf algae at coral-algae boundaries. We found that turf algae cause visible (overgrowth) and invisible negative effects (reduced fitness) on neighbouring corals. Corals can overgrow neighbouring turf algae very slowly (at a rate of 0.12 mm 3 wk−1) at ambient nutrient concentrations, but turf algae overgrew corals (at a rate of 0.34 mm 3 wk−1) when nutrients were experimentally increased. Exclusion of herbivores had no measurable effect on the rate turf algae overgrew corals. We also used PAM fluorometry (a common approach for measuring of a colony's “fitness”) to detect the effects of turf algae on the photophysiology of neighboring corals. Turf algae always reduced the effective photochemical efficiency of neighbouring corals, regardless of nutrient and/or herbivore conditions. The findings that herbivores are not capable of controlling the abundance of turf algae and that nutrient enrichment gives turf algae an overall competitive advantage over corals together have serious implications for the health of Caribbean coral reef systems. At ambient nutrient levels, traditional conservation measures aimed at reversing coral-to-algae phase shifts by reducing algal abundance (i.e., increasing herbivore populations by establishing Marine Protected Areas or tightening fishing regulations) will not necessarily reduce the negative impact of turf algae on local coral communities. Because turf algae have become the most abundant benthic group on Curaçao (and likely elsewhere in the Caribbean), new conservation strategies are required to mitigate their negative impact on coral communities.
On April 22nd, 2017, vessels (a large barge and a smaller working boat) that aid with the construction of the second megapier on Curacao were observed operating away from the megapier location in front of the Holiday beach Hotel (HBH). They were extremely close to shore where the barge (holding a pile driver) appeared to be anchored (Fig.1) while the working vessel pulled a large yellow object around, presumably a buoy used to anchor vessels and/ or barges (Fig. 2). Bystanders later stated that the barge was in front of the HBH before the 22nd but was towed away by a tugboat on Saturday. Presumably all aforementioned activities concern the preparations to install to pilings in front of the HBH that will be used for mooring cruise ships docked at the future second megapier...
Primary producers release oxygen as the by-product of photosynthetic light reactions during the day. However, a prevalent, globally-occurring nighttime spike in dissolved oxygen in the absence of light challenges the traditional assumption that biological oxygen production is limited to daylight hours, particularly in tropical coral reefs. Here we show: 1) the widespread nature of this phenomenon, 2) its reproducibility across tropical marine ecosystems, 3) the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on this phenomenon across numerous datasets, and 4) the observation of nighttime oxygen spikes in vitro from incubations of coral reef benthic organisms. The data from this study demonstrate that in addition to physical forcing, biological processes are likely responsible for increasing dissolved oxygen at night. Additionally, we demonstrate an association between these nighttime oxygen spikes and measures of both net community calcification and net community production. These results suggest that nighttime oxygen spikes are likely a biological response associated with increased respiration and are most prominent in communities dominated by calcifying organisms.