Status of Bonaire’s reefs

While the coral reefs around Bonaire have suffered in recent decades from regional phenomena such as repeated bleaching events, urchin die-off, coral diseases and local impacts such as coastal development, pollution and overfishing, they are still considered some of the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean (Jackson et al., 2014). Bonaire’s reefs are some of the best-studied ecosystems in the region. The different studies, such as long-term monitoring and studies by Dr. Rolf Bak et al. since 1973 and an intensive study by Dr. Robert Steneck et al. since 2003, have been invaluable in providing insight into trends. They have revealed the dramatic changes that the reefs have gone through over the last 40 years with alarming trends in coral cover, species composition, macroalgae, turf algae and cyanobacterial mats. However, with effective conservation measures in place and management of the island’s marine resources in the hands of dedicated professionals, and thanks to the island’s location outside the hurricane belt, there appears to be hope for their survival particularly if there is a political willingness to continue to protect them from harm. Recent work providing the first evidence of coral reef resilience 1 in the Caribbean found that Bonaire’s reefs were able to recover from a disturbance such as bleaching event.

This news article was published in BioNews 3-2017.

BioNews is produced by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

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