Surveys of windward and leeward patch reefs adjacent to San Salvador Island, Bahamas, and Belize, Central America, were completed prior to and after significant environmental disturbances; a severe El Nino event (1998) followed closely by a major hurricane disturbance (Hurricanes Floyd and Mitch, respectively). Results of the 1998 and 2000 surveys showed partial mortality of corals that were related to the previous disturbance events, but overall San Salvador’s reefs appeared to be more resilient to both disturbances than were comparable reefs in Belize.
During February – March 2003, surveys using the same protocol employed in the 1998 and 2000 survey were completed on the study sites adjacent to San Salvador. Species diversity at the study sites has increased dramatically since 2000 suggesting recovery from the earlier disturbances through recruitment of additional coral taxa. Although species richness around San Salvador island has increased since 2000, there has also been an increase in partial coral mortality, possibly related to bleaching or disease. The reefs adjacent to San Salvador are therefore likely responding to continued sources of ecological stress.
Jennifer Savonen, ’03 Edwards, CO
Majors: Biology, Environmental Studies
Sponsor: Benjamin Greenstein