[Coral-List] New Paper: 20 years of change in benthic communities across the Belizean Barrier Reef

Catherine Alves alves.catie at gmail.com
Thu Jan 27 14:51:54 UTC 2022

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and yours are doing well amid another challenging year. I am
reaching out to share with you *our new paper describing 20 years of change
in benthic communities across the Belizean Barrier Reef*. It can be viewed
open-access at PLOS ONE via this link

*Below is the abstract:*

Disease, storms, ocean warming, and pollution have caused the mass
mortality of reef-building corals across the Caribbean over the last four
decades. Subsequently, stony corals have been replaced by macroalgae,
bacterial mats, and invertebrates including soft corals and sponges,
causing changes to the functioning of Caribbean reef ecosystems. Here we
describe changes in the absolute cover of benthic reef taxa, including
corals, gorgonians, sponges, and algae, at 15 fore-reef sites (12–15m
depth) across the Belizean Barrier Reef (BBR) from 1997 to 2016. We also
tested whether Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), in which fishing was
prohibited but likely still occurred, mitigated these changes.
Additionally, we determined whether ocean-temperature anomalies (measured
via satellite) or local human impacts (estimated using the Human Influence
Index, HII) were related to changes in benthic community structure. We
observed a reduction in the cover of reef-building corals, including the
long-lived, massive corals *Orbicella* spp. (from 13 to 2%), and an
increase in fleshy and corticated macroalgae across most sites. These and
other changes to the benthic communities were unaffected by local
protection. The covers of hard-coral taxa, including *Acropora* spp.,
cavernosa*, *Orbicella* spp., and *Porites* spp., were negatively related
to the frequency of ocean-temperature anomalies. Only gorgonian cover was
related, negatively, to our metric of the magnitude of local impacts (HII).
Our results suggest that benthic communities along the BBR have experienced
disturbances that are beyond the capacity of the current management
structure to mitigate. We recommend that managers devote greater resources
and capacity to enforcing and expanding existing marine protected areas and
to mitigating local stressors, and most importantly, that government,
industry, and the public act immediately to reduce global carbon emissions.

Please feel free to circulate with any colleagues you think would be

Warm regards,

Catherine Alves, Ph.D.

*Catherine Alves, Ph.D.* (she/her/hers)

Marine Ecologist and Social Scientist

Website <http://www.catherinelalves.com> | Twitter
<https://twitter.com/catiealvesphd> | ResearchGate

Cell/WhatsApp: +1-401-207-4981

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