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Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

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. Source

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. Source

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. Source

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. Source

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/.

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