Spatial and temporal variability of chlorophyll-a in coastal waters of Sint Eustatius

MSc report

Land based nutrient input from anthropogenic sources is a worldwide issue and a threat to coral reef health. Corals found in high nutrient environments are less resistant to global stressors such as rising temperature and extreme weather events. The absence of sewage treatment on St. Eustatius and its erosion prone coastline suggests poor water quality. Chlorophyll-a concentrations were monitored at 11 locations around St. Eustatius twice a month from May to August 2022 (n=7). Preliminary results on spatial and temporal variation of chlorophyll-a show an overall good water quality. Average concentrations did not exceed the environmental threshold of 0.3 μg/L at any of the sampled locations. Concentrations varied between locations and over time. Highest average chla values were found close to STUCO's brine outlet, the oil terminal and Golden Rock Dive & Nature Resort. Towards the end of the sampling period, chlorophyll-a concentrations were more variable between locations, which coincided with the onset of more frequent rain showers. No heavy rainfall occurred during the sampling period, so it was not possible to study the effects of higher precipitation on chlorophyll-a concentrations. Current results do not show reason for concern. However they should be re-evaluated when data on stable isotopes and nutrient concentrations are available. Long-term monitoring that includes the rainy season will show if the water quality around St. Eustatius is suitable for coral reefs or if action is needed to improve it.

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