Variability and sustainability of the Southern Subarea of the Caribbean Sea large marine ecosystem
The Southern Subarea of the Caribbean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem encompasses most of the continental and island coasts of Venezuela, as well as Trinidad, Tobago, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba and the northeastern continental coast of Colombia in the Caribbean. The subarea is the only area of the Caribbean Sea LME (CSLME) with an important upwelling process that determines its very high productivity, especially in the eastern region of Venezuela. It generates a big impact over the ecological conditions of the rest of the Caribbean Sea LME, mainly over the biological productivity. However, extreme changes of climatic conditions have weakened upwelling in several years during the last two decades, with severe consequences in the total fish production of Venezuela and the Southern Subarea of the Caribbean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem. The crisis of the sardine in Venezuela is perhaps the clearest example of it. Another contribution of the Southern Subarea of the Caribbean Sea LME is the high biodiversity of marine fauna and flora that appears in numerous coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves in the region. Unfortunately, several factors threaten the health and population sizes of some taxonomic groups. The corals are among the most affected, with losses of significant live coral coverage at all the reefs of the Southern Subarea, similar to the rest of the Caribbean region. Even when the governance of the Southern Subarea of the Caribbean Sea LME has many environmental laws and institutions that are charged with applying these laws, the latter are not appropriately enforced. If this situation does not change, the sustainability of the Southern Subarea will be at risk.