Descripción: Instalación de Thickets con colonias de corales de Acropora cervicornis  cultivadas en las fincas de SAM.

Auspiciador: Sociedad Ambiente Marino

Proyecto Comunitario de Acuacultura de Corales y Rehabilitación de Arrecifes en Culebra, Puerto Rico

Descripción: El Proyecto Comunitario de Acuacultura de Corales y Rehabilitación de Arrecifes en Culebra, Puerto Rico. Dicho proyecto tiene como meta principal la propagación de A. cervicornis mediante el uso de métodos de baja tecnología y de bajo costo, y mediante la participación directa de las comunidades de base. A su vez, esto fomenta la reintroducción de la especie a zonas previamente despobladas y fomenta la rehabilitación del crecimiento neto del arrecife, de su resiliencia, su paisaje, de sus funciones ecológicas y de sus servicios. Particularmente, esto promueve a la vez la recuperación de las pesquerías arrecifales.

Auspiciador: Sociedad Ambiente Marino

Demographic Dynamics Of The Common Demosponge Ircinia felix

Descripción: Sponges are one of the principal benthic components of Caribbean coral reefs. Despite the fact that they have multiple functional roles, little is known about their demography and ecology. For this reason, this study focuses on the demography of the common demosponge Ircinia felix in Tamarindo Bay, Culebra, Puerto Rico. Preliminary studies comparing size structure of two populations within Tamarindo Bay, Tamarindo North and Tamarindo South, indicate that sponges at TN are significantly larger than sponges at TS. These data served as baseline for the present comparative study in which we aim to determine whether such spatial differences in population size structure can be explained by differences in rates of survival, growth, and/or recruitment.

Auspiciador: Sociedad Ambiente Marino

Building resiliency in the Puerto Rico Northeast Reserves by reducing recreational impacts, addressing land-based sources of pollution (LBSPs), and restoring coral reef habitats.

Descripción: The Northeast Reserves (NER) including the island of Culebra support important coastal ecosystems that help to sustain human livelihoods, recreational usage, a high biodiversity, and are therefore vital for the economic growth in the region. Nonetheless, over the past several decades, the region has experienced a significant decline in coastal and marine habitats, particularly coral reefs, due to anthropogenic impacts including poorly planned coastal development, land-based sources of pollution (LBSP), overfishing and climate change impacts. In response to these challenges this effort will improve the prognosis for the sustained health of coral reefs and seagrasses. The project will support the expansion of ongoing coral farming and outplanting efforts in Culebra and Fajardo; and  reduce recreational impacts to coastal ecosystems in Culebra and Fajardo.  This will be achieved by 1) Increasing the number of Acropora cervicornis and A. palmata colonies in existing coral farms; 2) Out-planting 3,000 colonies/year of A. cervicornis to rehabilitate a total of 20 replicate 25 m2 patches/reef/year of A. cervicornis under different coral densities across two shallow reefs in Culebra, and in 10 replicate patches/reef across two reefs in Culebra and two reefs in Arrecifes La Cordillera Natural Reserve after two years (N=120 patches), and to use the first generation of A. palmata outplants (300 colonies) to expand coral farming units; 3) Improve shallow-water fish communities through coral out-planting; and 4) Parameterize and test a size-staged population model without-planted A. cervicornis long-term permanent monitoring data to assess coral out-planting effectiveness as a restoration tool.

Auspiciador: NOAA-HBP Program

Ecosystem-level impacts of community-based coral reef rehabilitation in light of rapidly evolving ecological paradigms

Descripción: 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.

Auspiciador: Sea Grant College Program, Omnibus Proposals Program

Actual status and trends of Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), Staghorn coral (A. cervicornis), and Star corals (Orbicella annularis, O. faveolata, O. franksi) across the Northeast Reserves System and Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

Descripción: Coral reefs are rapidly declining on a global scale due to a combination of local-scale anthropogenic factors and large-scale climate change impacts that have resulted in recurrent massive coral bleaching and widespread coral mortality events. Such changes have become highly significant across the wider Caribbean region, including Puerto Rico (PR), and have produced unparalleled coral mortality and no net signs of significant recovery for many species. In contrast, most reefs are showing permanent regime shifts in community structure and trajectory, which often result in a long-term loss in ecosystem resilience, socio-economic value, and net functions, goods, benefits and services. This has prompted the designation of several coral species across the U.S. Caribbean as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, little is still known about their spatial distribution and about the actual population status and trends of most ESA-listed species across several important remote locations through the region, such as the Northeast Reserves System and Culebra Island, PR. The northeastern PR wide shelf is fundamental for coral’s genetic connectivity and region-wide natural reef recovery ability. The proposed project will help address the following three management/oriented research questions: 1) What is the status of ESA-listed Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), Staghorn coral (A. cervicornis), and Star corals (Orbicella annularisO. faveolataO. franksi) across the Northeast Reserves System and Culebra Island, PR? 2) What are the demographic dynamics of A. palmata and A. cervicornis populations?; and 3) What are the population projections of A. palmata and A. cervicornis under a set of different climate change and environmental scenarios simulations? This approach will help coral ecologists and managers fill critical data gaps regarding the actual status of ESA-listed species across priority locations. It will also provide the baseline for incorporating landscape level metrics to ESA-listed coral population dynamics assessments.

Auspiciador: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Addressing land based sources of pollution and restoring reefs through coral farming in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Descripción:Coral and invertebrate removal and relocation at Paseo de la Real Marina, Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico – Mitigation Phase II

Auspiciador: NOAA-CRCP

Coral and invertebrate removal and relocation at Paseo de la Real Marina, Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico – Mitigation Phase II

Descripción: The Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority was authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) to commence work on the project Paseo de la Real Marina (SAJ- 1998-5365 (IP-DD), Aguadilla, PR, in February 21, 2006. Permit was eventually transferred to the Autonomous Municipality of Aguadilla. The project consists of the construction of a riprap revetment and development of recreational facilities along a 2.14 km long section of the waterfront of the Aguadilla harbor. Approximately 7.4 acres of shoreline will be filled along the waterfront. During Phase II of the project construction activities will impact a total of 798 linear meters of shoreline from which coral colonies in excess of 4”-diameter (10 cm) will be removed from the project footprint area or the bottom immediately adjacent to it, and relocated to an adjacent reef area non-directly impacted by the project construction.

Auspiciador: Adm. Muncipal Aguadilla

Long-term monitoring of coral transplanting and marine invertebrate relocation at Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico

Descripción: This project consists of periodic in situ qualitative inspection and quantitative evaluation of the coral out-planting work performed in the project Paseo Real Marina in Aguadilla, PR through the total time period of the construction activities plus three additional years after completing all coral relocation work in compliance with Special condition 3(a)(2)v of USACOE permit No. SAJ-1998-5365 (IP-DD), and in compliance with Sections and of the protocol approved by USACOE and NMFS.

Auspiciador: Adm. Muncipal Aguadilla

Lionfish impacts on fish communities: The role of community-based experimental removal and fishing management

Descripción: Lionfishes have become species of great concern because of their predatory habits and rapid expansion through the wider Caribbean region. There is mounting evidence of their voracious effects upon small-sized fish species and upon the juvenile stage of multiple fish species, including many commercially-important groups. However, it is still important that impacts by lionfishes are critically addressed, particularly along shallow fish nursery ground areas, in order to establish basic, community-based, strategies to manage and control these invasions.

Auspiciador: DRNA

Efectos de cambio de la profundidad en el cultivo de corales

Descripción: Ante la marcada disminución poblacional del coral cuerno de ciervo, la pobre recuperación natural de esta especie y disminución de organismos asociados en toda la región del Caribe, es necesaria e imperativa la intervención humana para establecer estrategias de restauración, sostenibilidad y por ende de recuperación de este sistema arrecifal. Numerosas iniciativas con el fin de restaurar las poblaciones de corales cuerno de ciervo se han desarrollado a lo largo y ancho del Caribe. SAM ha sido pionero en este campo, siendo el primer grupo de trabajo en proponer y establecer fincas de corales en donde se cultivan, cosechan y trasplantan corales cuerno de ciervo con el propósito de rehabilitar las poblaciones en su medio natural.

Auspiciador: Fundación Toyota, Fundación Ford

Slowly-evolving Ramicrusta textilis (Peyssonneliaceae, Rhodophyta) invasions – Is it a driver of net shifts in Caribbean coral reef ecosystem functions?

Descripción: This project is aimed at addressing five management-oriented questions: 1) What is the impact of the red encrusting algae, Ramicrusta textilis, invasion of Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, biotopes on colony level dynamics (i.e.,coral skeletal extension rate, bioerosion rate, tissue regeneration ability)?; 2) What is the impact of coral tissue lesions and R. textilis invasion on A. cervicornis demographic dynamics and population projections?; 3) What is the impact of R. textilis invasion on coral reef ecosystem-level processes (coral recruitment, shifting fish community structure)?; 4) What is R. textilis turnover rate and how it can impact algal diversity and productivity?; 5) How is micro-scale water quality impacted under R. textilis canopy? These questions will be addressed through a combination of field experiments and targeted monitoring approaches. Tissue regeneration ability will be experimentally tested by inducing small tissue lesions in a set of experimentally transplanted fragments in contact with R. textilis and compared to unaltered fragments in contact with the algae, as well as to control fragments (no contact- with lesions, and unaltered). Demographic impacts will be addressed based on tissue regeneration experiments outcome and then setting an experiment with out-plants in contact with the algae (25%, 50%, 100% contact), in comparison to controls (no contact). Impacts on coral recruitment will be addressed by comparing coral recruitment rates along two years in replicate plots over R. textilis substrates and on control open substrates. Skeletal extension will be addressed by comparing out-planted coral growth in contact with R. textilis with control fragments. Bioerosion rates will be addressed in dead coral fragments in similar experimental and control plots. Algal growth will be determined by direct measurement of growth rates and its ability to invade and spread in open reef substrate. Ramicrusta impacts on algal biodiversity will be assessed with belt transects. Fish community structure will be compared by means of stationary visual censuses within R. textilis dominated substrates and on control plots. Water quality below R. textilis canopy will be compared to measurements atop and across adjacent open bottoms. This approach will have multiple implications regarding the long-term fate of A. cervicornis wild populations and the long-term success of coral reef rehabilitation across the region.

Auspiciador: University of Puerto Rico Sea Grant College Omnibus Proposals Program