Caribbean

Ecosystem profile for the 15 European Overseas entities in the Caribbean region.

The Caribbean Islands are composed of 30 nations and overseas entities: 12 independent nations, 3 U.S. territories (Puerto-Rico, US Virgin Islands, Navassa Island) and 15 European Overseas entities that are politically attached to France, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The region is considered as a biodiversity hotspot of international importance, which encompasses over 7,000 islands, islets, cays and reefs ranging in size from just 5 km2 to over 100,000 km2.

BEST – an initiative to promote conservation in European overseas

The Caribbean region comprises one of the seven regions in the world, in which European Union (EU) Overseas entities are located: from the Arctic to the Antarctic, in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and Indian Ocean, and even in parts of the Amazon. Combined their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) make the largest marine area worldwide, covering 15% of the ocean. They host 20% of coral reefs and lagoons, provide the last refuge to 6% of globally threatened and endangered species and are acknowledged as biodiversity hotspots for their immense diversity of species, ecosystems and landscapes. Together, the 9 EU Outermost Regions (ORs) and 25 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) host more than 70% of Europe’s biodiversity. 

Date
2016
Data type
Other resources
Theme
Education and outreach
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Aruba
Bonaire
Curacao
Saba
Saba bank
St. Eustatius
St. Maarten

Taxonomic review of tropical western Atlantic shallow water Drilliidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Conoidea) including descriptions of 100 new species

A review of the literature and examination of over 3,200 specimens of shallow water (<200 m) tropical western Atlantic (TWA) Drilliidae Olson, 1964 in museum and private collections has resulted in the recognition of numerous previously undescribed species, 100 of which are proposed here for the first time. A total of 65 names were found in the literature. Of these, 48 are considered valid, 16 synonyms, and one nomen dubium. In addition, characteristics that distinguish each genus currently in use for TWA shallow water species have indicated the need for reassignment (new combinations within Drilliidae) of 15 species. Some nomenclatural actions have come about from the literature review and include one taxon placed in junior synonymy (under an older name recently re-discovered) and one new name for a junior homonym. Two neotypes, five lectotype designations, and one new name are also proposed. Altogether, nomenclatural actions on 17% of valid previously described taxa are proposed. The 100 proposed names are placed in 12 available and one new genus: Agladrillia Woodring, 1928 (2), Bellaspira Conrad, 1868 (7), Calliclava McLean, 1971 (3), Cerodrillia Bartsch & Rehder, 1939 (11), Clathrodrillia Dall, 1918 (6), Decoradrillia, new genus (4), Douglassia Bartsch, 1934 (4), Fenimorea Bartsch, 1934 (15), Leptadrillia Woodring, 1928 (12), Lissodrillia Bartsch & Rehder, 1939 (8), Neodrillia Bartsch, 1943 (2), Splendrillia Hedley, 1922 (13), and Syntomodrillia Woodring, 1928 (13). These are the first reports of Calliclavain the western Atlantic, previously known only from the eastern Pacific. The new genus, Decoradrillia, is proposed to hold four new species and one existing that share a unique shell microsculpture and other morphological traits. One genus, Drillia Gray, 1838, is not currently believed to have TWA representatives. Three genera comprised exclusively of bathyal species are not treated in this work: Clavus Monfort, 1810 (=Eldridgea Bartsch, 1934), Globidrillia Woodring, 1928, and Spirotropis Sars, 1878. The significant increase in species within all of the genera has the effect of strengthening the groups’ diagnostic characters by their presence across a greater number of species. Each of the 148 valid species treated herein are described (or redescribed) and photographs of types presented, as are photographs of morphological variants and representatives from separate geographic areas, if available, to illustrate species’ variability

Date
2016
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Journal
Author

Ecological solutions to reef degradation: optimizing coral reef restoration in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic

Reef restoration activities have proliferated in response to the need to mitigate coral declines and recover lost reef structure, function, and ecosystem services. Here, we describe the recent shift from costly and complex engineering solutions to recover degraded reef structure to more economical and efficient ecological approaches that focus on recovering the living components of reef communities. We review the adoption and expansion of the coral gardening framework in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic where practitioners now grow and outplant 10,000’s of corals onto degraded reefs each year. We detail the steps for establishing a gardening program as well as long-term goals and direct and indirect benefits of this approach in our region. With a strong scientific basis, coral gardening activities now contribute significantly to reef and species recovery, provide important scientific, education, and outreach opportunities, and offer alternate livelihoods to local stakeholders. While challenges still remain, the transition from engineering to ecological solutions for reef degradation has opened the field of coral reef restoration to a wider audience poised to contribute to reef conservation and recovery in regions where coral losses and recruitment bottlenecks hinder natural recovery.

Date
2016
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Journal
Geographic location
Curacao

Diver Depth-Gauge Profiling beyond Wading Depths: A New Simple Method for Underwater Surveying

Surveying subaqueous beach profiles and features beyond wading depths can be a costly process, requiring use of expensive equipment and boats. This paper describes the materials and methods of a simple, low-cost technique for underwater bathymetric surveying, herein named the diver depth-gauge profiling (DDGP) method. Although accuracy of depth data depends on the quality of the depth gauges used, it is commonly within 0.3 m. Data collection reliability was evaluated by repeated underwater beach profile surveys, and an example of its use in the Caribbean is provided.

 

Date
2013
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba

Patrimoine marin caribéen et perspectives écotouristiques : vers un développement durable des petites îles?

The Caribbean Sea is home to a diversity of coastal habitats that support the installation of three rich and complex ecosystems - coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses -. There are also other unique formations such as stromatolites or blue holes. Oceanographic and climatic conditions allow homogeneous throughout the Caribbean basin to form a unit in terms of flora and fauna. This unit does not exclude an exceptional biological diversity, including species endemic to the area, which give the coasts of the Caribbean countries an ecological, landscape and some science. Recognition on the international and regional importance of the Caribbean Sea but also its fragile marine environment has allowed the Caribbean to gain its status as a natural heritage.

In addition to the ecosystem services it render (fisheries, coastal protection ...), the Caribbean Sea is a definite asset in the development of tourism in the area by the seaside as well as, more recently, ecotourism. The latter is generally based on marine protected areas and should facilitate the sustainable development of islands.

From a case study, the Saba Marine Park, the objective of this study is to analyze the relationship between natural heritage and marine ecotourism, as well as economic, social and environmental development of these resources.

Date
2013
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba
Saba bank
Author

The Genus Pustulatirus Vermeij and Snyder, 2006 (Gastropoda: Fasciolariidae: Peristerniinae) in the Western Atlantic, with Descriptions of Three New Species

Western Atlantic species of the New World genus Pustulatirus Vermeij and Snyder, 2006 are revised. Types of previously named taxa are figured. Species recognized as valid include P. attenuata (Reeve, 1847), range uncertain; P. eppi (Melvill, 1891), Curagao; P. ogum (Petuch, 1979), northeastern Brazil; and P. virginensis (Abbott, 1958), Bahama Islands and eastern Caribbean Sea to Aruba. Latirus karinae Nowell-Usticke, 1969 is confirmed as ajunior subjective synonym of P. virginensis. Syrinx annulata Röding, 1798, treated as a Caribbean Pustulatirus by Vermeij and Snyder (2006), and Latirus annulatus Melvill, 1891 are regarded as species inquirenda. Three new species are described: P biocellatus, northeastern Brazil; P. utilaensis, Bay Islands, Honduras and northwestern Panamá; and P. watermanorum, Honduras continental shelf and offshore Colombian banks. Most western Atlantic Pustulatirus shells exhibit little intraspecific variability in morphology or color and occur within rather precise, well-defined ranges; an exception is P. virginensis, whose shells exhibit much variability in size, morphology and color.

Date
2013
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Journal
Geographic location
Aruba
Bonaire
Curacao

Bathyal sea urchins of the Bahamas, with notes on covering behavior in deep sea echinoids (Echinodermata: Echinoidea)

In a survey of the bathyal echinoderms of the Bahama Islands region using manned submersibles, approximately 200 species of echinoderms were encountered and documented; 33 species were echinoids, most of them widespread in the general Caribbean area. Three species were found to exhibit covering behavior, the piling of debris on the upper surface of the body. Active covering is common in at least 20 species of shallow-water echinoids, but it has been reliably documented previously only once in deep-sea habitats. Images of covered deep-sea species, and other species of related interest, are provided. Some of the reasons adduced in the past for covering in shallow-water species, such as reduction of incident light intensity, physical camouflage, ballast in turbulent water, protection from desiccation, presumably do not apply in bathyal species. The main reasons for covering in deep, dark, environments are as yet unknown. Some covering behavior in the deep sea may be related to protection of the genital pores, ocular plates, or madreporite. Covering in some deep-sea species may also be merely a tactile reflex action, as some authors have suggested for shallow-water species.

Date
2013
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Curacao

Fish species utilization of Contrasting sub-Habitats Distributed Along an Ocean-to-Land Environmental Gradient in a Tropical Mangrove and Seagrass Lagoon

Abstract

The importance of mangrove and seagrass lagoonal habitats as nursery areas for many reef-associated fish species is well established in the scientific literature. However, few studies have examined the relative use by nursery species of different sub-habitats within such systems. Here, we investigated fish community structure of a variety of interconnected sub-habitats of the tropical lagoon of Lac Bay in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean. Visual census was used to test the degree to which these sub-habitats may differ in their use by fishes of different species and life stages. We quantitatively sampled the fish species abundance, composition, and size structures at a total of 162 sites distributed among nine different sub-habitats that are common to mangrove and seagrass ecosystems. Fish community variables differed consistently among sub-habitats and were mainly influenced by the presence of mangrove root structure or seagrass cover. Mangrove fringe sub-habitats were a premier habitat since multiple life stages of a variety of species showed highest densities and biomass there. Several reef fish species had a distribution pattern suggesting a unique stepwise post-settlement life cycle migration in which larger juveniles and/or subadults appear to move from the open bay environment (seagrass beds or bay mangrove fringe) to the interior mangrove fringes along mangrove pools before later departing to the adult habitat of the coral reef. In the case of the well-lit and well-circulated central bay sub-habitat, the limiting factor to fish abundance and diversity appeared to be the paucity of three-dimensional shelter due to the lack of Thalassia seagrass beds. In the warm and hypersaline backwaters, physiological tolerance limits were likely a key limiting factor. Long-term changes driven by mangrove expansion into this non-estuarine lagoon have been steadily reducing the net coverage of clear bay waters, while the surface of shallow, muddy, and hypersaline backwaters, unusable by key nursery reef fish species, has been increasing by an almost equal amount. Our study shows how fish density varies along the full gradient of sub-habitats found across a tropical bay to provide insight into the potential consequences for nursery habitat function when the availability and quality of these sub-habitats change in response to the long-term dynamic processes of mangrove land reclamation and climate change.

Date
2015
Data type
Scientific article
Geographic location
Bonaire

Diver Depth-Gauge Profiling beyond Wading Depths: A New Simple Method for Underwater Surveying

Abstract
Surveying subaqueous beach profiles and features beyond wading depths can be a costly process, requiring use of expensive equipment and boats. This paper describes the materials and methods of a simple, low-cost technique for underwater bathymetric surveying, herein named the diver depth-gauge profiling (DDGP) method. Although accuracy of depth data depends on the quality of the depth gauges used, it is commonly within 0.3 m. Data collection reliability was evaluated by repeated underwater beach profile surveys, and an example of its use in the Caribbean is provided. 

Date
2015
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Saba

Regional-scale dominance of non-framework building corals on Caribbean reefs affects carbonate production and future reef growth

Abstract

Coral cover on Caribbean reefs has declined rapidly since the early 1980's. Diseases have been a major driver, decimating communities of framework building Acropora and Orbicella coral species, and reportedly leading to the emergence of novel coral assemblages often dominated by domed and plating species of the genera Agaricia, Porites and Siderastrea. These corals were not historically important Caribbean framework builders, and typically have much smaller stature and lower calcification rates, fuelling concerns over reef carbonate production and growth potential. Using data from 75 reefs from across the Caribbean we quantify: (i) the magnitude of non-framework building coral dominance throughout the region and (ii) the contribution of these corals to contemporary carbonate production. Our data show that live coral cover averages 18.2% across our sites and coral carbonate production 4.1 kg CaCO3 m−2 yr−1. However, non-framework building coral species dominate and are major carbonate producers at a high proportion of sites; they are more abundant than Acropora and Orbicella at 73% of sites; contribute an average 68% of the carbonate produced; and produce more than half the carbonate at 79% of sites. Coral cover and carbonate production rate are strongly correlated but, as relative abundance of non-framework building corals increases, average carbonate production rates decline. Consequently, the use of coral cover as a predictor of carbonate budget status, without species level production rate data, needs to be treated with caution. Our findings provide compelling evidence for the Caribbean-wide dominance of non-framework building coral taxa, and that these species are now major regional carbonate producers. However, because these species typically have lower calcification rates, continued transitions to states dominated by non-framework building coral species will further reduce carbonate production rates below ‘predecline’ levels, resulting in shifts towards negative carbonate budget states and reducing reef growth potential.

 

Date
2015
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire