Status of reef health at Yellow Sub study site on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean: progression of a coral - algal phase shift
Coral reefs around the globe are subject to environmental and anthropogenic stressors that are causing habitat degradation and a decline in reef resilience. Past studies of Caribbean reefs document a decrease in coral cover with a simultaneous increase in algal cover after significant stress, disturbance, or coral mortality. The long-term shift from coral dominated reefs to algae dominated reefs is known as a coral – algal phase shift. This study assessed the progression of a coral-algal phase shift at the Yellow Sub study site on Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean, by comparing current coral and algal benthic cover to historical data at a nearby study site. Research was conducted over a five-week period from September to October 2012. Twenty 10 m transects were filmed and analyzed through Coral Point Count software to determine percent live coral and algal cover. Mean coral cover at the study site was 14.25%, algae cover was 72.37% and the algae: coral ratio was 5.07. Diseases present were noted and included Yellow Band disease, White Plague, Dark Spot disease, and coral bleaching. In comparison to historical data at a nearby study site, a significant increase in the algae: coral ratio was observed, indicating the progression of a coral – algal phase shift at Yellow Sub study site. This study served to contribute to the scientific knowledge of Bonaire reef ecosystem resilience and the results obtained will help provide evidence and motivation to increase coral reef conservation efforts.