Is the introduced cup coral Tubastraea coccinea an invasive species in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean?

The orange cup coral Tubastraea coccinea has expanded its range from the Indo-Pacific into the western Atlantic region. It grows on a wide variety of natural and man-made substrates, including rock ledges, docks, and shipwrecks. Its early reproductive age, fast growth rate, and ability to thrive where other species cannot could potentially make T. coccinea a valid threat to native species. The goal of this study is to provide baseline data on the size, depth, and range of T. coccinea on the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean. Substrate and light intensity preferences were also investigated by estimating percent cover on a variety of substrates and light conditions. A clear preference was observed for concrete substrates and low light conditions. Interactions between T. coccinea and a variety of other coral and sponge species were also investigated for potential harmful effects, but despite documentation of harmful coral-coral interactions in Brazil, no evidence of T. coccinea exhibiting harmful effects on native coral species was found in the study area of Bonaire. While T. coccinea does not currently appear to exhibit negative effects on native species in Bonaire, it may simply be in the early stages of expansion and this expansion needs to be monitored for future development of harmful effects on native species.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science IX (Spring 2011)19: 70-78 from CIEE Bonaire.

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