Terrestrial degradation impacts on coral reef health: Evidence from the Caribbean

Roberts M, N Hanley, S Williams, and W Cresswell. 2017. Terrestrial degradation impacts on coral reef health: Evidence from the Caribbean.

Ocean & Coastal Management. 149 (5): 52-68

REEF fish survey data collected from Bonaire in 2015 were used to help evaluate the impact of terrestrial degradation on nearby coral reefs, specifically investigating the link between vegetation ground cover and tree biomass index to coral cover, fish communities and visibility. The authors found a positive relationship between ground cover and coral cover below 10 m depth, and a negative relationship between tree biomass index and coral cover below 10 m. Greater ground cover is associated to sediment anchored through root systems, and higher surface complexity, slowing water flow, which would otherwise transport sediment. The negative relationship between tree biomass index and coral cover is unexpected, and may be a result of the deep roots associated with dry-forest trees, due to limited availability of water, which therefore do not anchor surface sediment, or contribute to surface complexity. The analysis provides evidence that coral reef managers could improve reef health through engaging in terrestrial ecosystem protection, for example by taking steps to reduce grazing pressures, or in restoring degraded forest ecosystems.

Download PDF Version
Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub