Central Caribbean Marine Institute

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Central Caribbean Marine Institute

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
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Peach K.E.,Florida Atlantic University | Koch M.S.,Florida Atlantic University | Blackwelder P.L.,University of Miami | Manfrino C.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | Manfrino C.,Little Cayman Research Center
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2017

While elevated pCO2 associated with ocean acidification has been shown to lower calcification rates in some marine calcifiers, the modulating potential of irradiance is not well studied. Therefore, we examined the interactive effects of irradiance (high and low) and elevated pCO2 on six species of the macroalgal genus, Halimeda, an ecologically important tropical calcifier. Calcification, growth, and aragonite crystal formation were studied in a 42 d aquaria experiment. Species-specific photophysiology and inorganic C saturation levels were ascertained by establishing photosynthesis to irradiance and inorganic C (Ci) relationships potentially linking photophysiology to growth and calcification responses to elevated pCO2. Because of Halimeda's role as a sediment producer on tropical reefs, the effect of elevated pCO2 on dissolution of non-living segments was also examined. Net calcification rates varied among species, with no significant pCO2 or irradiance effects. However, low irradiance enhanced new apical segment growth in all six species. Crystals formed in new apical segments under elevated pCO2. Non-living segment mineral:organic content and internal calcium carbonate (CaCO3) crystal microstructure remained stable over 21 d at elevated pCO2. Species-specific photosynthetic responses corresponded to irradiance conditions at collection sites. For example, high irradiance-adapted species photosynthetic rates were enhanced under increased availability of Ci. In contrast, low irradiance-adapted species photosynthetic rates were saturated under current Ci levels. While species-specific photosynthetic responses to elevated pCO2 occurred, these photophysiology shifts did not result in reduced calcification or microstructural alteration of carbonate crystals at pCO2 levels predicted for the year 2100 in any of the six Halimeda species examined. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.

Dutra E.,Florida Atlantic University | Koch M.,Florida Atlantic University | Peach K.,Florida Atlantic University | Manfrino C.,Central Caribbean Marine Institute | And 2 more authors.
ICES Journal of Marine Science | Year: 2016

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) cement reefs and create important habitat and settling sites for reef organisms. The susceptibility of CCA to increasing ocean pCO2 and declining pH or ocean acidification (OA) is a growing concern. Although CCA are autotrophs, there has been little focus on the interaction of elevated pCO2 and irradiance. We examined elevated pCO2 effects on individual CCA and macroalgal benthic communities at high and low irradiance (205-13 μmol photons m-2 s-1) in an aquaria experiment (35 d, June-August 2014) on Little Cayman Island, Caribbean. A dominant Cayman reef wall CCA (Peyssonnelia sp.) in its adult lobed form and individual CCA recruits were used as experimental units. Changes in CCA, fleshy macroalgae (branching and turfs), and microalgae (including microbial biofilm) per cent cover and frequency were examined on macroalgal communities that settled onto plates from the reef. Reef diel cycles of pCO2 and pH were simulated using seawater inflowfrom a back reef. Although CO2 enrichment to year 2100 levels resulted in 1087 μatm pCO2 in the elevated pCO2 treatment, CaCO3 saturation states remained high (Ωcal ≥ 2.7). Under these conditions, elevated pCO2 had no effect on Peyssonnelia sp. calcification rates or survival regardless of irradiance. Individual CCA surface area on the bottom of settling plates was lower under elevated pCO2, but per cent cover or frequency within the community was unchanged. In contrast, there was a strong and consistent community assemblage response to irradiance. Microalgae increased at high irradiance and CCA increased under low irradiance with no significant pCO2 interaction. Based on this short-term experiment, tropical macroalgal communities are unlikely to shift at pCO2 levels predicted for year 2100 under high or low irradiance. Rather, irradiance and other factors that promote microalgae are likely to be strong drivers of tropical benthic algal community structure under climate change. © International Council for the Exploration of the Sea 2015. All rights reserved.

Abdul Wahab M.A.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | De Nys R.,James Cook University | Holzman R.,James Cook University | Schneider C.L.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | And 2 more authors.
Marine and Freshwater Research | Year: 2017

Reproduction is a key biological process that underpins the persistence and maintenance of populations. However, information on the reproductive biology of Great Barrier Reef (GBR) sponges is depauperate. The present study established the reproductive biology of two co-occurring GBR sponges, namely Ianthella basta (Verongida) and Ircinia sp. (Dictyoceratida). Sponges were haphazardly sampled (monthly) over a period of 1 year. Histological analysis of samples established the sexuality, development, seasonality, gametogenesis and fecundity of the two species, as well as the effects of temperature on reproduction. I. basta is oviparous, whereas Ircinia sp. is viviparous. The mode of sexuality in I. basta could not be determined, because male propagules were not detected, whereas Ircinia sp. is a simultaneous hermaphrodite. Reproduction in I. basta is unique within the verongids and co-occurring oviparous species, with peak reproduction occurring at the minimum annual temperature (23°C) and spawning occurring as the temperature increased above 23.4°C. Reproduction in Ircinia sp. corresponded to patterns reported for other viviparous GBR species, with an increase in reproductive propagules, peak sperm release, fertilisation and spawning occurring at temperatures above 25°C. Fecundity in I. basta and Ircinia sp. is high compared with other sponge species in the region, which may contribute to their apparent abundance on the GBR. © CSIRO 2017.

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.

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 http://reefresearch.org/lcrc/.

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: http://www.reefresearch.org/ccmi_website/home.htm

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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