Update on Coral-Reef Research in Honduras
Bob Halley, Don Hickey, and Chris Reich (SPFC) welcomed Dr. Carlos Garcia-Saez, Director of the Cayos
Cochinos Biological Reserve Station, to the SPFC during the first week of March. The purpose for this visit
was twofold: (1) to discuss plans for our March/April trip to Honduras and (2) to meet with some of the SPFC's
computer and GIS specialists.
Above: Algae coating on Siderastrea sp.
Above: Brown encrusting sponge.
Above: A tunicate occupying the base of a species of Diploria.
Thanks go to Rob Wertz and Lance Thornton for taking time out of their busy
schedules to present Carlos with a vast number of computer and digitizing options. Thanks also go to Kristy
Guy for spending several days guiding Carlos through the ARCVIEW software. With this knowledge, the future
GIS lab in Cayos Cochinos can be designed with the most up-to-date software and hardware.
Accomplishments from the March 28-April 15 field work:
Two Sea-Bird data loggers were successfully installed on the shallow reef (6 m): one at Cayos Cochinos
and the other at Roatán. The loggers will record temperature, salinity, and light (as photosynthetically
active radiation; PAR). The instruments will assist in identifying variables that can affect the health
of reef corals, such as upwelling events, and freshwater influx and increased sediment load from the
mainland. With the cooperation of recent graduates from the National University of Honduras stationed
at Cayos Cochinos and a volunteer at the Roatán Institute of Marine Science, we will have help maintaining
the light sensors at both sites.
Recovered six thermographs placed on shallow and deep reefs around Cayos Cochinos. Although four of
the six had malfunctioned, we were able to download data from two shallow sites. These data (see graph below) show that
during early October surface-water temperatures were above coral-threshold temperature (~30°C). Above
this temperature, corals can become stressed and can expel their symbiotic algae, resulting in a phenomenon
known as coral bleaching. Extended periods of high water temperature result in increased mortality of reef
corals if they do not recover the algae.
Setting up shop: Permananent housing for
Sea-Bird data logger. PVC housing is cemented to sea floor and Sea-Bird is secured inside.
The overall impression of the reefs in Honduras is that they are doing better than most elsewhere in
the upper Caribbean basin. We were pleased to have observed new recruits of Acropora palmata and Agaricia
sp. and few incidences of disease. However, a brown alga (e.g., Lobophora sp.) was widespread at both shallow
and deep reef sites. We also noted three primary invaders compromising coral health at both Cayos Cochinos and
Roatán: (1) algal coatings, (2) a brown encrusting species of sponge, and (3) a white tunicate.
Six-month record of sea-surface temperature from a shallow reef site near the Cayos Cochinos Research
Station. Note extremely high water temperatures during early October 1999.
A visit to the USAID (US Agency for International Development) office in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras,
was arranged before returning to St. Petersburg. Bob gave a presentation on the status of this project to Mr.
Joe Lombardo, deputy mission director for USAID/Honduras, and to Dr. Mark Smith, hydrologist with the USGS.
The next return trip is scheduled for August/September 2000.
in this issue:
NY Bight Cruise
Honduras Coral Reefs
Letter to the Editor
Nat'l Ocean Sciences Bowl Winner
Earth Day, Tampa Bay
Gulf of Mexico
Great Lakes Mapping
Interagency Pollution Work
Edgar Receives RSAS Award
Shinn, Reich, & Hickey Receive SEPM Award
Work With High School Students
New ECO Interns at WHFC
Talk by Richie Williams
Ellen Mecray Completes Boston Marathon
May Publications List