Scientists and Managers Meet to Review Scientific Research and Management Applications for Coral Reef Ecosystems in Puerto Rico
On February 17, 2006, scientists from throughout Puerto Rico and from the United States met on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in San Juan, Puerto Rico to discuss the latest research on Puerto Rico ‘s coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs around the island are threatened by a variety of stressors, including smothering by sediments, nutrient enrichment and algal overgrowth, over-fishing, and disease.
In particular, Dr. Edwin Hernandez reported on his surveys of reefs around Puerto Rico which revealed a high incidence of coral bleaching, attributed to the unusually high water temperatures this past summer. A substantial finding, as over 80% of the colonies bleached in half the locations surveyed. Nevertheless, Dr. Hernandez was able to identify conditions that offered significant protection from this syndrome, thus offering the possibility of setting up havens to protect coral diversity.
Hosted by the Caribbean Coral Reef Institute (CCRI), the 2006 Coral Reef Symposium gathered more than 100 representatives of universities, local, state, and federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to discuss on-going research and research priorities for managing these valuable resources. Participants included University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President Antonio Garcia Padilla, and 23 representatives from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), including Mr. Ernesto Diaz, DNER Administrator of Natural Resources.
Highlights among 19 presentations involving 38 researchers included reports on the impact of fishing on species of aquarium fish and invertebrates, strategies for the development of MPA’s, spawning fish aggregations, habitat mapping, sedimentation, new observations on deep reefs, factors affecting the survival of new coral and gorgonian colonies, and the existence of algae that kill and overgrow fire coral by secreting toxins.
Dr. Richard Appeldoorn, Executive Director of CCRI, hoped that this symposium, the first meeting since 1998 dedicated to the health and management of coral reefs, will become an annual event, as additional research and information exchange among scientists and managers are necessary to meet the challenge of restoring our coral reef ecosystems.
The CCRI is a cooperative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. The CCRI is administered by the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research , and is a core component of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. Its mission is to sponsor research to address management needs and to incorporate research results into management practice.