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Assessing the Potential for Natural Recovery and Coral Restoration Techniques for Enhancing Coral Habitat in Jamaica NJ Quinn, BL Kojis, A Bowden-Kerby 2005

Assessing the Potential for Natural Recovery and Coral Restoration Techniques for Enhancing Coral Habitat in Jamaica NJ Quinn, BL Kojis, A Bowden-Kerby 2005

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Published by Jacque C Diver
Assessing the Potential for Natural Recovery and
Coral Restoration Techniques for
Enhancing Coral Habitat in Jamaica
Assessing the Potential for Natural Recovery and
Coral Restoration Techniques for
Enhancing Coral Habitat in Jamaica

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Published by: Jacque C Diver on Feb 14, 2011
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02/14/2011

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Assessing the Potential for Natural Recovery andCoral Restoration Techniques forEnhancing Coral Habitat in Jamaica
Norman J. Quinn
 
Discovery Bay Marine Lab, University of the West Indies, Discovery Bay, St. Ann, Jamaica
Barbara L. Kojis
Division of Fish and Wildlife, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands 00802
W. Austin Bowden-Kerby
CounterPart International, 1200 18
th
Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036
 Abstract
- The reduced biodiversity of Caribbean coralreefs has been attributed to disturbances of various types.Many of the once abundant coral species have disappearedfrom Jamaican coral reefs with algae taking their placeresulting in a less attractive reef habit with fewer fish whichhas affected the Jamaican economy. The mortality of 
 Acropora
species has been a particularly important drivingforce in shaping the transition. The abundance of 
 Acropora
spat settling in the Caribbean are lower thanother coral families and much lower than on South Pacificreefs. A natural recovery through sexual reproduction isunlikely in the next decade. The long-term survival of remnant
 A. cervicornis
populations is threatened unlesssuccessful sexual reproduction is restored. This studyseeks to assess methods of restoring
 A. cervicornis
populations by creating pockets of greater reef healtharound surviving populations. Experi- mental transplantsusing several techniques are underway to develop a suitabletechnology for restoring
 A. cervicornis
populations inJamaica. In one technique the mean survivorship rangedfrom 4% - 78% after 55 weeks. Mortality associated withdamselfish (
Stegastes)
and fireworms (
 Hermodicecarunculata)
 
were observed. By increasing coral habitatbiomass and complexity we can increase the abundance of fish populations which will result in greater fish catches forsubsistence fishers. As well, more coral and fishbiodiversity improves the attractiveness of the reef community for divers and snorkelers making Jamaica amore appealing destination for tourists.
I. INTRODUCTION
 A. Coral Reef Ecology
Coral reefs are often called the rainforests of themarine realm. The beauty and biodiversity of its plantsand animals attracts snorkelers and divers from aroundthe world helping to support the Jamaican touristindustry. The reefs also provide habitat and shelter thatsupport fish populations which provide a livelihood forsubsistence fishermen. As well, the shore is protectedfrom the action of waves by the physical presence of thereef. The reef builds and regenerates the beaches, whichprovides an attraction for travelers to Jamaica.The Jamaican coral reef is an active ecosystem,which despite experiencing major damage is stillfunctional and fascinating. The major culprits of coralreef decline are hurricanes, pollution, disease, chronicoverfishing, bleaching episodes and physical damagefrom anchors. In 1980, Hurricane Allen produced >10m waves which slammed into the coral reefs and began aperiod where Jamaican reefs declined in diversity andabundance.
 B. Coral Reefs in Decline
Only two to three decades ago,
 Acropora cervicornis
 was one of the most important reef-building corals onJamaican reefs [1]. However, this species has declinedthroughout the region, becoming locally extinct on manyreefs [2]. The Caribbean wide decline of 
 Acropora
coralsin recent decades has serious consequences to coral reef biodiversity, coastal geology, and to the fisheries andtourism economies of the region. Such is the presentsituation that the three described Caribbean species arebeing considered for listing as endangered or threatenedspecies [3], a first for reef-building scleractinian coralsglobally.There are many factors that are considered to haveinfluenced the rapid reduction in populations. Wasterunoff from land contributes to algal overgrowth whichcompetes with the corals for oxygen and light and spaceand may actually coral fecundity [4] prevent settlementof coral larvae [5]. In the Caribbean, chronic overfishing is an ever increasing threat to coral reefs [6].The effect of over fishing is to promote algal overgrowthand thereby reduces the space for new coral to settle [7].The decline has also been linked to the lack of predators,resulting in increases in corallivorous gastropods [8],increases in
 Acropora
harming
Stegastes
fish, [9] declineof grazing
 Diadema
sea urchins [10], algal overgrowth[11], and associated coral disease [12].Serveral decades ago, the
 Acropora cervicornis
population at the West Fore reef at Discovery Bay
 
was
Page
1
 
 
 
Page
2
 
reduced to a mere 4% of its original cover by HurricaneAllen [13]. Eight years later when Hurricane Gilbertstruck Jamaica, the few recovering stands of 
 Acropora
 that had survived Allen were smashed again [14].Subsequent incidents of predation and disease reducedthe
 A. cervicornis
population to <1% of their originallevels [15].Even on reefs where measures to address the rootcauses of coral decline have been implemented,
 A.cervicornis
populations do not appear to be recovering,as larval recruitment is very sparse [5]. A likelyhypothesis for a lack of larval-based recovery is thatmost of the surviving
 A. cervicornis
populations areeither too young or too small to produce planula thatwould normally re-colonize reefs [16]. Currentobservations suggest that the long-term survival of 
 A.cervicornis
is threatened unless root causes of decline aremore effectively addressed throughout the region, andsuccessful sexual reproduction occurs.
C. Coral Restoration Technology
 Artificial reefs have been used for centuries forcreating underwater habitat and increasing biologicalactivity [17]. Not all reefs can be restored and somecorals are more receptive to restoration than others [18,19]. In the Pacific, the coral reefs in Fiji are much moreresiliant than the reefs in the Marianas Islands [20].Due to the high expenses involved in restoration actionsand the variety of practices that could be used, we needinnovative but general models that will guide us inrestoring damaged habitats. The gardening of coralreefs with sexual and asexual recruits after theirmariculture
in situ
within special nursery areas may serveas such a framework for developing restoration protocolssuitable for sharing through a network of MarineProtected Areas throughout Jamaica.The
 Acropora cervicornis
is a keystone species of critical importance to biodiversity, fisheries, and tourisminterests.
 A. cervicornis
is particularly vital as fisherieshabitat due to it being the only large open-branched coralspecies of reef slope, back reef, and logoonalenvironments, so the loss of this species represents a lossto the biodiversity and essential fisheries habitat of Caribbean reefs. In the Indian Ocean transplanted coralshave been shown to enhance fish abundance anddiversity [21].In Tobago, West Indies,
 Acropora cervicornis
 transplantation has been done with a survival of 30-35%of the colonies eight months after transplantation. Of thesurviving colonies the growth rate ranged from 6.5 to11.7 cm year
-1
[22].
 A. cervicornis
is suitable as atransplanted coral because of its relatively fast growthrate.
 D. Is Natural Recovery Likely in the Next Decade?
Many hypotheses have been proposed to explain thelack of recovery of the coral assemblages [2, 6, 15]. Oneof the most likely is the lack of sexual recruitment of themajor reef building corals in the family Acroporidae (5,23, 24, 25]. The potential for coral to naturally recovershould be examined before efforts to restore reefs areundertaken. Efforts to transplant or restore reefs areunnecessary if the population has the capacity torecovery through natural means.We have sought to determine the abundance, depthdistribution and seasonal variability of sexual recruitmentof acroporid corals along the West Fore Reef atDiscovery Bay, Jamaica. It was hypothesized that owingto a paucity of mature acroporid colonies there would below levels of larval recruitment.Recruitment patterns of juvenile corals are importantto the overall community structure of coral reefs [26, 27].Studies frequently focus on juvenile coral >1 cmdiameter called “visible” recruitment. Since thepost-settlement process may change the number of recruits [28], recruitment onto tiles is considered to be abetter indication of the availability of planktonic planulaethan the study of “visible” corals [27]. As well, earlysettlement stages are more vulnerable than adults tochanges in nutrient [29] and sediment levels [30].As part of this project were are investigating thesettlement of planula on tiles placed on the reef. Small,fragmented colonies still occur and it is hoped that atleast some of the remaining coral populations are nowreasonably stable, being composed of the more resistantsurvivors of major bleaching and disease epidemics.However,
 Acropora cervicornis
is not returning to reefswhere it was formerly common [31], as sexualrecruitment of 
 Acropora
is rare or absent in theCaribbean [25, 26, 32]. Given the low levels of successful sexual reproduction of 
 A. cervicornis
itslong-term survival is threatened and a proactive approachmay be needed to in initiate the restoration of healthypopulations.
 E. Experimental Restoration Efforts on Jamaican Reefs
 With the implementation of no-take MPAs andmeasures to address the root causes of coral reef declinein several Caribbean countries, patches of increased reef health can be expected to return. Once the fish,crustaceans, and other species that positively influencecoral health have become more abundant, corals shouldbegin to fare better on the reefs. Abundant herbivorousfish populations have been shown to keep algae in check,helping enable corals to survive well even in nutrientenriched waters [33].Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (DBML) andCounterpart International are working with localstakeholders including the Montego Bay Marine Park,Northern Jamaica Conservation Association and several
 
 
Page
3
 
local hotels to help restore the biomass of 
 Acroporacervicornis
on select reefs sites on the Jamaican northcoast. The strategy is to create pockets of greater reef health around surviving
 A. cervicornis
populations, usingtechniques such as removal of coral predators, weedingexcess seaweed, removing
Stegastes
damselfish, andexperimental introduction of sea urchins to controldisease-harboring algae [34] around
 Acropora
populations. Another strategy involves propagation of 
 A. cervicornis
branches taken from healthy populationsfor experimental propagation in areas large populationonce existed. This paper reports on our transplantationexperiments.II. METHODS
 A. Coral Recruitment 
Coral recruitment arrays were constructed byattaching four 208 cm
2
unglazed terracotta tiles to a PVCarray (Fig. 1). The tiles were smooth on one side andhad 12 ridges on the other side. Two of the tiles werearranged horizontally and two vertically on the array.The tiles were ~ 0.8 m above the substrate.
Fig. 1. Coral recruitment collector deployed on theWest Fore Reef, Discovery Bay, Jamaica.
The arrays were initially installed in late March 2001and were replaced in October 2001 (“summer 2001”sampling period), April 2002 (“winter 2001 / ‘02”),October 2002 (“summer 2002”), in April 2003 (“winter2002/‘03”) and October 2003 (“summer 2003”). Thescleractinian and milleporan corals were counted(standardized to number recruits m
-2
) and identified tofamily where possible using a binocular microscope.
 B. Coral Restoration
Around Discovery Bay several healthy
 Acropora
 
cervicornis
populations have been located of sufficientsize to be use for coral restoration experiments. OnJune 2, 2004, 160 fragments of 
 Acropora cervicornis
 ranging in
 
length from 5 to 14 cm
 
were collected fromcolonies at Dairy Bull Reef (18º28.24 N; 77º24 W) at adepth of ~10 m. Buckets filled with sea water wereused to temporarily house the fragments while they weretransported by boat to the laboratory.
 
1) Sampling Effect Experiment.We examined source colonies where the fragmentswere taken from to see if collecting breaking fragementscaused an increase in mortality. On September 2, 2004,colored cable ties were attached to 40 source colonies ~ 2cm below where fragments were broken off. Anadditonal 40 source population colonies were used as acontrol and were tagged with different color ties at thesample approximate position where the cable tag tieswere located on the donor colonies. Three months laterthe colonies were reexamined for mortality.2) A frame Experiment.Some fragments were then attached to 14 wire mesh“A-frames” using plastic cable ties. The base for thecoral fragments were wire mesh (0.8 m x 1.2 m) bent at90
o
. The frames were tagged with numbered tags foridentification. Two weights were attached to the base of each frame for stability. Five fragments were placed onthe outer side of each frame (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. M. Stennett monitors growth and survival of 
 Acroporacervicornis
fragments on A-frame. Dead tips of fragments arelikely the result of 
 Hermodice carunculata
predation.
The experimental A-frames were then deployed atseveral sites around Discovery Bay: Columbus Park Reef (18º46.448 N; 77º41.428 W) - depth 6 m; East Back Reef (18º46.856 N; 77º40.454 W) - depth 4 m; the Blue Hole(18º47.252 N; 77º41.662 W) - depth 2 m, Back Reef Canoe Channel (18º28.305 N; 77º24.950 W) - depth 2 m;and outside the bay at West Fore Reef (18º47.252 N;77º41.662 W) - depth 6 m (Fig. 3). At Columbus Park Reef, the water was quite turbid with a visibilityfrequently <10 m. The substrate was silt. A live,healthy reef with a dense
 A. cervicornis
population hadpreviously lived there for at least 6,000 year b.p. [31].The East Back Reef is an area subjected to breakingwaves and clear water. The substrate is sand mixed

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