Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

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Luter H.M.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Duckworth A.R.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Wolff C.W.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Evans-Illidge E.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

One of the key components in assessing marine sessile organism demography is determining recruitment patterns to benthic habitats. An analysis of serially deployed recruitment tiles across depth (6 and 12 m), seasons (summer and winter) and space (meters to kilometres) was used to quantify recruitment assemblage structure (abundance and percent cover) of corals, sponges, ascidians, algae and other sessile organisms from the northern sector of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Polychaetes were most abundant on recruitment titles, reaching almost 50% of total recruitment, yet covered <5% of each tile. In contrast, mean abundances of sponges, ascidians, algae, and bryozoans combined was generally less than 20% of total recruitment, with percentage cover ranging between 15-30%per tile. Coral recruitment was very low, with <1 recruit per tile identified. A hierarchal analysis of variation over a range of spatial and temporal scales showed significant spatio-temporal variation in recruitment patterns, but the highest variability occurred at the lowest spatial scale examined (1 m-among tiles). Temporal variability in recruitment of both numbers of taxa and percentage cover was also evident across both summer and winter. Recruitment across depth varied for some taxonomic groups like algae, sponges and ascidians, with greatest differences in summer. This study presents some of the first data on benthic recruitment within the northern GBR and provides a greater understanding of population ecology for coral reefs. © 2016 Luter et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Bejarano S.,University of Queensland | Bejarano S.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Golbuu Y.,Palau International Coral Reef Center | Sapolu T.,University of Queensland | Mumby P.J.,University of Queensland
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2013

Nominally herbivorous fish play a variety of functional roles that are important in maintaining coral reef resilience, yet are major targets of spear fisheries in Micronesia. Although protection is afforded to iconic species in some areas, impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem are poorly understood. The goal of this study was to locate the major potential ecological threats from the fishery by integrating catch data with species-specific metrics of ecological importance and vulnerability to fishing. Region-wide and country-specific grounds for ecological concern were identified. The heavy exploitation of Naso unicornis was the most serious regional concern-not only was it the most vulnerable species involved in the fishery, but it plays a low-redundancy functional role (i.e. macroalgal browsing) in the ecosystem. The parrotfishes Cetoscarus bicolor, Scarus rubroviolaceus and Chlorurus microrhinos were also implicated in ecological risks (most noticeable in Palau), and the large proportion of immature catch aggravated the concerns found in Pohnpei. An interview-based assessment of species desirability among fishers highlighted the challenges managers may meet locally in diverting attention away from heavily harvested species. Opportunities to alleviate the ecological risks posed by a significant sector of the Micronesian fisheries were identified. Inducing changes in fishers' targeting behaviour towards opportunis - tically-caught species may prove feasible in most countries, and if enacted, may reduce fishing pressure in low-redundancy functional roles. The effectiveness of the policy options supported by the present approach in sustaining reef function and resilience has yet to be assessed. However, we anticipate that informing fishers about the implications of their selectivity may achieve tangible progress in conservation of the species. Therefore, policies which moderate catch rates of highly desirable species, as well as efforts to promote more conscious targeting behaviours, may complement the benefits of the existing networks of marine protected areas. © Inter-Research 2013.

Manfrino C.,Kean University | Manfrino C.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Jacoby C.A.,University of Florida | Camp E.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Frazer T.K.,University of Florida
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Coral reefs are damaged by natural disturbances and local and global anthropogenic stresses. As stresses intensify, so do debates about whether reefs will recover after significant damage. True headway in this debate requires documented temporal trajectories for coral assemblages subjected to various combinations of stresses; therefore, we report relevant changes in coral assemblages at Little Cayman Island. Between 1999 and 2012, spatiotemporal patterns in cover, densities of juveniles and size structure of assemblages were documented inside and outside marine protected areas using transects, quadrats and measurements of maximum diameters. Over five years, bleaching and disease caused live cover to decrease from 26% to 14%, with full recovery seven years later. Juvenile densities varied, reaching a maximum in 2010. Both patterns were consistent within and outside protected areas. In addition, dominant coral species persisted within and outside protected areas although their size frequency distributions varied temporally and spatially. The health of the coral assemblage and the similarity of responses across levels of protection suggested that negligible anthropogenic disturbance at the local scale was a key factor underlying the observed resilience. © 2013 Manfrino et al.

Frazer T.K.,University of Florida | Jacoby C.A.,University of Florida | Edwards M.A.,University of Florida | Barry S.C.,University of Florida | And 2 more authors.
Reviews in Fisheries Science | Year: 2012

Invasive species generate significant environmental and economic costs, with maintenance management constituting a major expenditure. Such costs are generated by invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois spp.) that further threaten already stressed coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. This brief review documents rapid range expansion and potential impacts of lionfish. In addition, preliminary experimental data from targeted removals contribute to debates about maintenance management. Removals at sites off Little Cayman Island shifted the size frequency distribution of remaining lionfish toward smaller individualswhose stomachs contained less prey and fewer fish. Fewer lionfish and decreased predation on threatened grouper, herbivores and other economically and ecologically important fishes represent key steps toward protecting reefs. However, complete evaluation of success requires long-term data detailing immigration and recruitment by lionfish, compensatory growth and reproduction of lionfish, reduced direct effects on prey assemblages, and reduced indirect effects mediated by competition for food. Preventing introductions is the best way to avoid impacts from invasive species, and early detection linked to rapid response ranks second. Nevertheless, results from this case study suggest that targeted removals represent a viable option for shifting direct impacts of invasive lionfish away from highly vulnerable components of ecosystems. © Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

Zhu X.,University of Miami | Minnett P.J.,University of Miami | Berkelmans R.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Hendee J.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Manfrino C.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute
Continental Shelf Research | Year: 2014

A good understanding of diurnal warming in the upper ocean is important for the validation of satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) against in-situ buoy data and for merging satellite SSTs taken at different times of the same day. For shallow coastal regions, better understanding of diurnal heating could also help improve monitoring and prediction of ecosystem health, such as coral reef bleaching. Compared to its open ocean counterpart which has been studied extensively and modeled with good success, coastal diurnal warming has complicating localized characteristics, including coastline geometry, bathymetry, water types, tidal and wave mixing. Our goal is to characterize coastal diurnal warming using two extensive in-situ temperature and weather datasets from the Caribbean and Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. Results showed clear daily warming patterns in most stations from both datasets. For the three Caribbean stations where solar radiation is the main cause of daily warming, the mean diurnal warming amplitudes were about 0.4K at depths of 4-7m and 0.6-0.7K at shallower depths of 1-2m; the largest warming value was 2.1K. For coral top temperatures of the GBR, 20% of days had warming amplitudes >1K, with the largest >4K. The bottom warming at shallower sites has higher daily maximum temperatures and lower daily minimum temperatures than deeper sites nearby. The averaged daily warming amplitudes were shown to be closely related to daily average wind speed and maximum insolation, as found in the open ocean. Diurnal heating also depends on local features including water depth, location on different sections of the reef (reef flat vs. reef slope), the relative distance from the barrier reef chain (coast vs. lagoon stations vs. inner barrier reef sites vs. outer rim sites); and the proximity to the tidal inlets. In addition, the influence of tides on daily temperature changes and its relative importance compared to solar radiation was quantified by calculating the ratio of power spectrum densities at the principal lunar semidiurnal M2 tide versus 24-hour cycle frequency representing mainly solar radiation forcing, i.e., (PSDM2/PSD24). Despite the fact that GBR stations are generally located at regions with large tidal changes, the tidal effects were modest: 80% of stations showed value of (PSDM2/PSD24) of less than 10%. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

van Hooidonk R.J.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Manzello D.P.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Moye J.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Brandt M.E.,St. Thomas University at Miami Gardens | And 4 more authors.
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science | Year: 2012

The global rise in sea temperature through anthropogenic climate change is affecting coral reef ecosystems through a phenomenon known as coral bleaching; that is, the whitening of corals due to the loss of the symbiotic zooxanthellae which impart corals with their characteristic vivid coloration. We describe aspects of the most prevalent episode of coral bleaching ever recorded at Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, during the fall of 2009. The most susceptible corals were found to be, in order, . Siderastrea siderea, . Montastraea annularis, and . Montastraea faveolata, while . Diplora strigosa and Agaricia spp. were less so, yet still showed considerable bleaching prevalence and severity. Those found to be least susceptible were . Porites porites, . Porites astreoides, and . Montastraea cavernosa. These observations and other reported observations of coral bleaching, together with 29 years (1982-2010) of satellite-derived sea surface temperatures, were used to optimize bleaching predictions at this location. To do this a Degree Heating Weeks (DHW) and Peirce Skill Score (PSS) analysis was employed to calculate a local bleaching threshold above which bleaching was expected to occur. A threshold of 4.2 DHW had the highest skill, with a PSS of 0.70. The method outlined here could be applied to other regions to find the optimal bleaching threshold and improve bleaching predictions. © 2012.

Crandall J.B.,New York University | Teece M.A.,New York University | Estes B.A.,New York University | Manfrino C.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Ciesla J.H.,New York University
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2016

This study assessed the nutrient acquisition strategies of two scleractinian corals, Montastraea cavernosa and Agaricia spp., collected from shallow (depths less than 20 m) and mesophotic (depths of 30-150. m) habitats. The composition of biomarker sterols, bulk stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values, and compound specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA) of the sterols were analyzed to assess changes in feeding strategies of the corals. Both species acquired nutrients by heterotrophic feeding and translocation from symbionts. Colonies of M. cavernosa acquired photosynthetic nutrients in shallow and mesophotic habitats, and the relative sterol (and phytosterol) composition did not change with depth. CSIA evidence suggests that photosynthesis slowed with increasing depth. Colonies of Agaricia spp. used heterotrophic feeding throughout their depth range and acquired some photosynthetic nutrients in shallow habitats and few in mesophotic habitats. Both corals, Agaricia spp. and M. cavernosa, may be able to take advantage of deep reef refugia to maintain populations in a changing ocean by using distinct nutrient acquisition strategies. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FIELD STATIONS | Award Amount: 233.69K | Year: 2016

Little Cayman is one of the least developed tropical islands in the Caribbean, yet it provides a unique opportunity for research because of the facilities developed by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in 2005. CCMIs Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) provides an ideal facility where the reefs are under minimal local anthropogenic stress and are far removed from continental influences. Due to low population density and well-established marine protected areas, Little Cayman provides the rare opportunity to separate anthropogenic from environmental effects on coral reefs and their inhabitants. LCRC provides the laboratories, classroom, accommodations, vehicles, boats, and oceanographic instrumentation for scientists to conduct this vital research. Research at LCRC has led to major breakthroughs including the discovery of new marine invertebrates, improved understanding of low light reefs, advanced paleoclimatic reconstructions, a new physical oceanographic model for diurnal heating of shallow seas, and simulated ocean pH for 2100 to evaluate interactions between ocean acidification and calcification. This work is transforming knowledge and understanding of fundamental oceanographic processes and of mechanisms that drive coral reef stress and resilience. The facilities improvements shall further advance discovery and scientific understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning through programs held at LCRC: K-12 Marine Ecology and undergraduate courses, the Little Cayman Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), the Earthwatch Institute, and a new Dive with Heroes program for disabled US military veterans.

The increasing number of new partnerships with leading academics and institutions highlight the importance of LCRC to the wider community and are resulting in more visiting scientists. This proposal seeks to meet the growing needs of the visiting scientists and students at LCRC by i) renovating the main building to double on-site accommodations intended for visiting scientists and graduate students, (ii) modifying and updating common areas (dining room, bathhouse) to support the increase in occupancy during its research and education programs, and (iii) upgrading to hurricane-rated windows and doors in order to reduce the chances of weather adversely affecting the research projects and to improve the safety of both people and equipment. The field station renovations in this proposal will allow the programs at LCRC to run more efficiently and simultaneously due to the increased capacity and capabilities. The programs conducted at LCRC shall continue to be broadly disseminated though peer-reviewed scientific publications, scientific conferences, a monthly news channel segment, newspaper and magazine articles, weekly lecture series, and social media network updates. For more information about LCRC visit

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FIELD STATIONS AND MARINE LABS | Award Amount: 203.91K | Year: 2012

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) is awarded a grant to build and equip a new Coral Reef Stress Wet Lab at its field station, the Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC). The lab will be equipped with three primary wet lab work areas including a covered screened area, a climate controlled area, and a shaded screened area for experiments with a specific emphasis on climate change, ocean acidification, and fisheries management (lionfish and grouper). The new wet lab will enable LCRC to (1) enhance their capabilities and capacity for simultaneous research and education activities; (2) improve the quality, quantity, and accessibility of information produced and available at LCRC; and (3) enable them to better serve U.S. scientists and further develop collaborative partnerships with U.S. institutions and government.

Since 2006, LCRC has been providing oceanographic facilities that have enabled students and scientists to conduct field studies at a remote site where marine protection has been effective and where local human and development impacts are minimal. They have hosted over 90 visiting researchers and five major U.S. universities include a LCRC visit as a permanent part of their curriculum. CCMI also offers rich educational and conservation outreach activities for local K-12 Cayman Island schools which include underrepresented groups. Research at LCRC has led to major breakthroughs, including the discovery of new marine meiofauna species, an improved understanding of deep reefs, and new models for predicting coral bleaching and diseases.

The broader impacts of this infrastructure enhancement include producing new, high quality results on topics that are of the highest concern for society; providing a training ground for young scientists, who are the future of scientific discovery; attracting the best scientific minds and increasing the capacity of the station by establishing new partnerships and collaborations. Alongside existing long-term ecological and environmental data monitoring capabilities in partnership with NOAA- Coral Reef Early Warning System, the new facility will enhance the frontiers of science by collecting, publishing, and communicating results to the greater scientific community.

For further information about the Central Caribbean Marine Institute please visit:

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: RSCH EXPER FOR UNDERGRAD SITES | Award Amount: 286.20K | Year: 2014

Coral reefs maintain the highest biological diversity in the ocean and are also among the most threatened ecosystems on earth. This award provides funding for a new Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) located on Little Cayman Islands. The CCMI REU program will provide a unique opportunity for 24 undergraduate students over three years to explore fundamental ecological processes critical to maintaining coral reef biodiversity and resilience. Participating students will have a rare opportunity to conduct research on a small remote Caribbean island with low local development pressure. Coral reefs at this site are recovering from the 1998 El Nino event during which high sea surface temperatures killed corals on a global scale. The processes that are driving this recovery are still unknown. Therefore, this REU affords rich and timely opportunities to closely examine ecosystem stress and recovery from a number of perspectives. The multidisciplinary team of scientific mentors included in this REU are researching topics aimed at understanding global and local threats from climate change and ocean acidification (OA), and physical, chemical, and ecological disturbances on coral reefs. Experiments and field work examining fundamental organismal, community and ecosystem functions will be integral to this research. The research conducted by REU undergraduate participants will advance our knowledge of the processes that drive coral reef resilience to disturbances on multiple spatial and temporal scales. Co-funding for this award is provided by the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

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