Status and trends of the coral reef ecosystem around Saba 2016 – Netherlands Antilles
The Caribbean coral reefs showed drastic degradation over the last decades. As most Caribbean islands, Saba is economical dependent on their surrounding reef. Besides this the intrinsic value of the reef is inestimably. Monitoring reef surveys were conducted over the last decades, however different measurement methods are hard to compare. Therefore an annual survey following the GCRMN method was started in 2015. The study was based on the question of the current status of the reef and if there is a trend detectable over the years. The findings of 2016 showed that the overall score of the coral reef is ‘fair’. Yet, the benthic cover health indicators scored only ‘poor’. Coral cover was unusual low with ca. 6% in comparison with the rest of the Caribbean which has a mean cover of 18%. Macro algae cover around Saba with ca. 20% is lower than the mean Caribbean reef macro algae cover with 30%. However it shows a huge increase between the study of 2015 and 2016. Saba is a special volcanic island in the Caribbean Sea and therefore has its own positive and negative factors influencing the reef around the island. In addition to the general reef risk factors in the Caribbean such as climate change, water pollution and hurricanes, come special risks such as less vegetation through a goat overpopulation which causes a lot of sediment to run-off the steep walls of the island into the ocean, when it is raining. Further monitoring of the coral reef around Saba is crucial for the future management of the reef. A risk assessment of factors influencing the negative trend of the coral reef around Saba should be made and these factors if possible eliminated.