Title: Ecosystem-level impacts of community-based coral reef rehabilitation in light of rapidly evolving ecological paradigms
Description: This project is aimed at addressing two critical management-oriented questions: 1) What is the impact of coral reef rehabilitation on the ecosystem-level functions and resilience?; and 2) What are the impacts of land-based source pollution (LBSP) on the ecosystem level outcomes of coral reef restoration? This will be addressed this through long-term monitoring of four separate cohorts (0, 1, 2, 3 year-old) of out-planted Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, colonies. Specifically, we will address temporal changes in several environmental parameters directly or potentially impacted by LBSP and climate change, and addressing impacts of ecological restoration on fish community structure, fish recruitment rates, fish and macro-invertebrate herbivore guilds, benthic community structure, and coral recruitment rates within the no-take Canal Luis Peña Natural Reserve, Culebra Island, PR. The rationale of this project is that we will address the ecosystem-level impacts of a reduction in open areas for algal colonization (after increasing coral densities by out-planting harvested A. cervicornis colonies from existing coral farms), fostering increasing abundance and biomass of herbivore fish functional groups and Diadema antillarum. This will trigger a positive feedback mechanism where increased coral cover would lead to increased benthic structural complexity and positive feedbacks due to increased fish recruitment and to the surplus in grazing intensity. This will in turn reduce macroalgal cover, foster increased crustose coralline algal cover and increased coral recruitment. We propose to integrate a suite of ecosystem-level parameters to address the impacts of coral reef restoration efforts on fostering positive feedback mechanisms and addressing key priority resilience indicators that will target critical emerging ecological paradigms and challenges for reef managers in face of current and forecasted climate change trends.
Sponsor: Sea Grant College Program, Omnibus Proposals Program