Assessing Water Quality and the Benthic Species Communities around the Dutch Caribbean Island Sint Eustatius

MSc internship report

The health of coral reefs is threatened by anthropogenic land-based input, which is a global problem. High nutrient conditions make corals less resilient to environmental stresses like climate change and intense weather. Poor water quality is likely for the island of St. Eustatius due to the lack of sewage treatment and its erodible coastline. However, there are no data on this island’s long-term water quality monitoring. Chlorophyll-a concentrations, used to indicate water quality, were monitored at 13 locations around St. Eustatius twice a month from May to November 2022 (n=13). Additionally, images of the ocean floor at 10m were made using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to monitor benthic species communities and their habitat. The main conclusion of this research shows that the reefs are primarily in an algal-dominant state. This may be explained by the frequent, chronic exceedances of the 0.2 g/l chlorophyll-a threshold. Chlorophyll -a thresholds were surpassed more frequently and with higher amounts on the sites with a larger anthropogenic influence. The lower threshold for chlorophyll-a was surpassed at 5 out of the 11 sites by more than 30% of the measurements. This would point to a more pervasive low-level eutrophic condition at all sites. On many of the sand-based substrate areas, seagrass has covered it.

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