Friday, April 28, 2017

Sharing the beaches with sea turtles


Marine scientist and Technical Advisor to Save Our Sea turtles (SOS) Tobago, Dr Michelle Cazabon-Mannette, discusses how we manage events and activities mindful of other creatures with whom we share the coasts and beaches of Tobago. This feature was published in the Tobago Newsday on April 28, 2017.

Our beaches are a natural asset whose value we can’t deny. Who doesn’t enjoy a beach lime? Locals and tourists alike flock to our beaches every chance they get, for recreation and relaxation. Beachfront properties are in high demand and drive real estate prices up. Like most small islands, we experience generally high levels of coastal development, with the majority of residential, industrial and tourism activities located within our coastal zone. The coastal zone, however, is fragile and contains biodiverse ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps, which provide a range of services upon which we all rely. In addition to the pressure placed on the coast by society’s demand, the effects of global climate change, including sea level rise and increasing frequency and intensity of storms, adds to the continuous pressure on the coast. Careful management of the coastal zone is therefore necessary.


  Multiple sources of artificial light along a beachfront. Photo credit: Ryan P. Mannette
Beaches in the tropics are considered critical habitat for sea turtles. Although sea turtles spend 99% of their life at sea, they rely on warm sandy beaches for incubating their eggs to ensure successful reproduction and continuation of their species. Almost any sandy beach can serve as a suitable nesting site for sea turtles, so long as the beach is wide enough and steep enough to allow a nesting turtle to get beyond the high tide mark to lay her eggs where they will be out of reach of the sea.
Coastal development is therefore a direct threat to sea turtles, since development can reduce the availability of suitable nesting habitat through the placement of permanent structures, removal of native vegetation and improper drainage which can all wreak havoc on the natural coastline by altering natural patterns of sand movement (loss and build-up of sand). Furthermore, coastal development can lead to additional threats to sea turtles through other activities that are often associated with development. One major threat associated with development is artificial lighting, which interferes with sea turtles’ natural navigating ability, and can even result in mortality of nesting or hatching turtles and reduce reproductive success.

Sea turtle nesting happens almost exclusively under cover of darkness. When navigating on beaches at night, nesting females and hatchlings emerging from their nest, rely on natural light cues to orient themselves to the sea. On a natural beach, the brightest horizon is the sea, when compared with the dark vegetation at the back of the beach, since available light from the moon and stars is reflected off the sea surface. Artificial lights on beaches may deter turtles from nesting or result in the misdirection of nesting females and hatchlings. Misdirection manifests as both misorientation, where turtles move in the wrong direction (towards the artificial light instead of towards the ocean), and disorientation, where turtles are unable to orient in a constant direction. Hatchlings are generally more sensitive to artificial light than nesting females, and are also more vulnerable due to their small size. Turtles that are misdirected as a result of artificial lights may expend a lot of extra energy wandering around the beach, or may encounter roads, drains, walls, predators etc. Many hatchlings and some nesting females will die as a result of dehydration, falling prey to crabs, dogs, birds etc, becoming trapped or sustaining fatal injuries from falls, impalement or in some cases they are run over by cars. Some individuals will eventually make it to the sea, but only after expending so much energy that their chances of survival are much reduced. This is a major threat to sea turtles in some areas with intensively developed coastlines, such as the west coast of Barbados which was featured in BBC One’s Planet Earth II episode “Cities”.  In Tobago, we see the effect of artificial light on sea turtles at those beaches with hotels such as Turtle Beach, Grafton and Magdalena Grand.

A general rule of thumb is if a light source is visible to a person on the beach, then it is likely to be a problem for sea turtles. As discussed in last week’s column, the most effective conservation measures are those which directly address identified threats. Artificial lights can be effectively managed by taking a combination of steps such as turning off unnecessary lights, reducing number of lights and intensity/wattage, shielding and directing lights away from the beach and using long-wavelength light sources (yellow/red) instead of blue/white. Natural vegetation can be an excellent means of shielding light from the beach. Many counties and cities along Florida’s coast have adopted lighting regulations which provide guidance for artificial light management. The intention is to protect sea turtles during the nesting season by restricting the amount of light permitted through windows and doors. Locally, we have no such regulations to enforce artificial light management, but SOS Tobago continues to work directly with stakeholders such as hotels and businesses to reduce the effect of beachfront lighting on sea turtles and their nesting beaches. Most recently, SOS has conducted a lighting assessment for Rex Resorts Turtle Beach Hotel, and will work with the hotel management towards implementing the report recommendations.

Other activities at beaches can lead to disturbance of sea turtle nesting/hatching, such as events with large numbers of patrons, placement of any structures on the beach, and associated lights, noise, litter etc. The Tobago Beach Jazz to be held on April 29 and 30  (2017) at Rex Turtle Beach, raised concerns from The Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment (DIQE) of the Tobago House of Assembly, SOS Tobago, members of the public and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), regarding the impact on sea turtles at this important nesting beach, where leatherbacks lay approximately 200-400 nests annually, accounting for about 70% of leatherback nesting activity in Courland Bay. The event organizers and hotel management consulted with SOS Tobago and agreed to a number of measures for management of the event in such a way as to avoid and reduce impacts to the nesting beach. The EMA also stepped in to ensure that stakeholders were consulted and appropriate measures are in place.

Dover Beach, Barbados at night. Photo credit: Carla Daniel
It should be noted that the event will be held at Turtle Beach Hotel, not on the beach itself and scheduled to be finished promptly at 8pm on the 29th April and 6pm on the 30th April. There will be a number of steps taken to address crowd control including signage, public announcements, and patrols by SOS, Department of Forestry and the Environmental Police. Lighting and sound will be directed away from the beach and plastic recycling collection will be instituted. DIQE have indicated that the consultative approach and actions outlined for the event would serve as an example for all other beach-related events for which issues of protecting sensitive species arise. This is a positive step towards improved management of our important sea turtle habitat, and SOS looks forward to this being implemented for future events.

We can continue to share our beaches with sea turtles, once we give careful consideration to the needs of sea turtles and make appropriate decisions about what activities should be allowed and what measures are needed to ensure the continued successful nesting and hatching of sea turtles.
Dr Michelle Cazabon-Mannette continues to advocate for conservation of sea turtle ecosystems. You can view some of her work in Tobago at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Xq7Bi_N76w








Thursday, April 20, 2017

Conservation for human well-being

Marine scientist, Dr Michelle Cazabon-Mannette, introduces the idea of conservation for human health and well-being, and suggests activities that the average citizen should engage in, to keep Tobago green and serene. First published in Tobago Newsday on Thursday, April 20, 2017

 Parrot fish have an important role in healthy coral reefs, grazing on algae, photo by Ryan P. Mannette

Previous articles in this column have touched on some of the ways we benefit from the environment. This week I’ll focus on the link between healthy marine ecosystems and human well-being, to illustrate why conservation is important. I’ll also talk about the keys to a successful conservation strategy, and what we can all do to help conserve the environment.

Healthy, functioning ecosystems perform a range of services that tend to go unnoticed, but upon which we heavily rely for all facets of our well-being including security, shelter, food and water, health, recreation and culture. These ecosystem services are divided into the categories of provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services. Healthy coral reefs for example, support the fisheries industry (provisioning), provide essential shoreline protection (supporting), play a vital role in the regulation of climate (regulating), and provide recreation and tourism opportunities (cultural). Therefore it is in our own best interest to work towards maintaining these services, and that is what conservation is about. More than simply trying to boost numbers of rare species, conservation is about promoting sustainable healthy functioning ecosystems so that we might continue enjoying their benefits.


Dr Michelle Cazabon-Mannette and a hawksbill turtle, subject of a study carried out in Tobago waters some years ago. Turtles have long been considered food by humans. Dwindling populations of turtles now require us to adopt conservation strategies to safeguard our marine ecosystems. Photo by Lee Ann Beddoe

This is no small task, and it requires that we first understand the components of the ecosystem and how they function together, and how our actions threaten the system.
There are broad scale threats such as climate change and plastic pollution that have negative impacts throughout the environment, and there are threats at a more limited scale that may directly impact only a few species. When we examine the role of each species however, we may come to understand how an impact seemingly limited to a single species may in fact have wider effects throughout the ecosystem. 

Each species in an ecosystem has a role to play in the food chain whether as producers of energy, consumers, predators or as prey to others. Some species are critical to nutrient cycling by transporting nutrients from one place to another, while others may contribute to the physical structure of an ecosystem and provide shelter for other species. Each species then contributes to the ecosystem structure and functions in a number of ways. In many cases there is a degree of redundancy, where multiple species perform a similar role, so that the loss of one may be compensated for by the presence of another. But in some cases, a species plays such a unique, critical role, that if its population is depleted or even lost, it can cause ripple effects throughout the ecosystem with major repercussions. Such species are called keystone species because of their unique roles and disproportionate effect on the ecosystem.

A hawksbill turtle glides over a reef in Tobago, where it feeds on the abundant sponge, photo by Ryan P. Mannette

Keystone species in marine ecosystems include: parrot fish (which are important reef herbivores grazing on algae which may smother coral); several shark species (which are top predators and act to control the prey population); large herbivores such as manatees and green turtles (which graze on seagrass beds and maintain their productivity); hawksbill turtles (which have a unique diet feeding primarily on sponge – a simple animal which competes with coral for space); reef-building hard corals (which contribute to structural complexity of the reef and provide shelter for a variety of smaller mobile species including fish, eels, crabs, lobsters); leatherback turtles (which feed primarily on jellyfish which don’t have many predators but which prey on fish larvae).

All sea turtles serve as important nutrient transporters, gaining nutrients in the habitats where they eat, and depositing a portion at beaches where they nest. These key species then, are often the subject of targeted conservation efforts when their numbers are observed to decline. There can be a tendency to focus on simply helping boost the population numbers, without a view to the broader ecosystem context. However, the aim should be restoring the population to levels at which they can fulfil their ecological roles, consistent with the broader goal of restoring functioning ecosystems to where we continue to benefit from their services.

With this goal in mind, the key principle behind effective conservation is reducing or eliminating the threats that are causing a decline in numbers in the first place. Programs that involve removing animals from the wild for the purpose of breeding for example, do nothing to address the threats that are causing decline in the first place, and may cause more harm than good by removing animals from the roles that they should be fulfilling; and therefore interfere with the functioning ecosystem. Conservation strategies therefore, should revolve around managing human behaviour to reduce our impacts, while reserving direct interference as a last resort when other management measures are not sufficient. Such measures include regulation of natural resource exploitation, minimizing our waste and generally regulating how, when and where we interact with the environment.  

Everyone can do their part towards conservation by making better informed choices. Here are a few ways to start:
•    Avoid single use plastics as far as possible. That means plastic bags, food containers, disposable plastic bottles, cups, straws and cutlery. Use re-usable products instead.
•    Never leave litter behind. Litter anywhere, no matter how small and even far away from the coast, will eventually wash down to the sea.
•    Stay informed and make informed decisions about what food you eat, products you use and activities you participate in.
•    Finally, help spread the word. Teach your family and friends, and speak up when you observe someone acting inappropriately. Help them to understand why it’s important and help them make better choices.


 





Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Great Barracuda, Unseen Predator


 Barracudas, the fish named by early American Spaniards for their long jagged teeth, can grow to six feet in Tobago waters. They often shadow scuba divers, chasing and charging into their bubbles. Silent and stealthy underwater, they are fierce and solitary predators, contributing to healthy coral reefs. Here’s the tale of an encounter with a barracuda 35 years ago. This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday, April 13.

 
Battery of barracuda: young fish grow on nearshore reefs, mangroves and in seagrasses. Photo courtesy The Ocean Agency, XL Catlin Seaview Survey

On Holy Thursday 1982, a young couple came to Tobago to camp for the Easter weekend. They chose a quiet beach on the Atlantic side. The Studley Park beach runs alongside the Windward Road in the shelter of the Fort Granby cliff; it is accessible but not frequented; it seemed ideal for peace and solitude.  Settling in for the evening, they set up a small tent.

Just after sunrise, they woke and headed into the sea.

Annamaria remembers, “I was swimming in about five feet of water when I felt a tug. I called out to Rikhi, who was further out, and told him ‘shark’! He turned to the open sea to locate what he thought I saw. When he turned back to me, I was surrounded by bloody water. He swam back and dragged me to the beach.”

Rikhi continues,  “I saw a young guy walking on the beach with two girls, and shouted to him for help.”
Rikhi and Annamaria Ganase are looking for the man who helped them at Studley Park beach in 1982

Annamaria, “I could not feel my leg soon after the bite and I told Rikhi that my leg was gone. He said that my leg was still there but told me not to look at it. He tied a tourniquet around my leg using my wrap and a piece of stick he found on the beach. He bundled me in the back seat of the car and asked the guy to drive us to the nearest hospital. This guy was in a panic and bawling 'Oh my God, oh my God.' He drove like a mad man and Rikhi had to ask him to slow down. It took about 20 mins to the nearest hospital.

“At the Emergency entrance to Mt St George hospital, I was manhandled out of the back seat and onto a stretcher. I was still in my skimpy bathing suit with sand all over me. The nurse asked me what happened, and I told her that a fish bit me while I was in the sea.  She told me, ‘you know you not supposed to bathe on Good Friday because you will turn into a fish.’

“The bite was like a razor cut, not jagged at the edges. It exposed the bone with the teeth marks on the bone. I had cuts on my heel and toes. We think my whole foot was in his mouth.”

Annamaria spent that weekend in the Tobago hospital and took a flight to Trinidad on Sunday. The path to recovering the use of her foot was long and uncertain, only survivable through the persistence of her parents and doctors. “The doctor informed my parents that I had a 50/50 chance of losing my leg from below the knee. The first week after the operation I was in terrible pain and given morphine. I stayed in the hospital for six weeks and had to use crutches for six months after.  I had to do physiotherapy and electrotherapy for a couple of months once the cast was off. I am lucky I did not lose my leg.”

On subsequent trips to Tobago, Rikhi and Annamaria have been looking for their good Samaritan. Rikhi says, “He drove us to the hospital. He remained with the car outside the hospital until I came out around 3 pm. While waiting he cleaned the car seats of all the blood and sand. I drove back to the beach with him and he left while I packed up the tent. We never got his name. Several years later we stopped at some houses along the road near the beach and asked whether anyone remembered him. No one had any information. We are looking again, though 35 years have passed: he was maybe 18 to 22 years; about 5’ 7", very slim, brown skin.” 

News of the attack was posted on a blackboard in the fishing village where the fishermen speculated that it was a barracuda that attacked. That area on the Atlantic coast is known to be a feeding ground for barracuda. 

“My silver anklet was on the other leg. It was one big barracuda that bit me,” says Annamaria.

According to the UWI Life Sciences site, the Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) can grow to two metres and weigh 10 to 40 kg. They occur in tropical to sub-tropical seas and around Trinidad and Tobago.  Juveniles hide on coral reefs, in seagrasses and mangroves. As adults, they are lone hunters. They are carnivorous and opportunistic predators, feeding in the day just after sunrise or just before sunset in shallow water.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History website, “Inquisitive, sight-oriented fish, barracudas sometimes exhibit the unnerving habit of trailing snorkelers and divers.” On the occasion when a barracuda perceives a shiny object as the glint of a fish, it will attack with a quick strike.

As we flock to the beaches this weekend, let’s take some necessary precautions to be safe. Know where you are swimming. Remove shiny accessories, jewellery and ornaments from your person. Take back everything you bring to the beach, bottles, bags and food wrappers.

Help Rikhi and Annamaria Ganase find the young man who came to their assistance in Tobago 35 years ago. He was young at the time – maybe 18 to 22 years – slim build, average height. They are hoping that he remembers the incident and they want to know if he is still in Tobago. The good Samaritan, or anyone knowing him, can contact the Tobago Newsday office at Shirvan Mall.


Adult barracudas tend to be solitary hunters, feeding mainly in shallow waters. Photo courtesy The Ocean Agency, XL Catlin Seaview Survey

  
REFERENCES:
https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/discover/species-profiles/sphyraena-barracuda

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fostering Tobago's Soul

Cynthia Hurd Clovis at the Kariwak Village Hotel and Holistic Haven.
Photo courtesy Skene Howie
Cynthia Hurd Clovis may have arrived as a Canadian over 40 years ago. She returns to Canada this month as a Tobagonian. Like many others beguiled by the island’s natural charms, Cynthia stayed, built her family and a business here. But Cynthia leaves much more than a thriving hospitality business; her lasting legacy is shaped in the people who became her family at the Kariwak Village and most assuredly, those who visit from around the world and return here season after season.
This tribute to Cynthia's contribution to Tobago was first published in the Tobago Newsday on the weekend of April 9, 35 years after the "first night" on April 9, 1982.

Cynthia Hurd Clovis relates in her Kariwak cookbook: “at the age of 26, a life on the island of Tobago, an unspoilt tropical paradise 11 degrees north of the equator, seemed dreamily exotic.” She arrived on the island in 1976, with Trinidadian husband Allan Clovis to fulfill their dream of building and operating a small hotel. “Acquiring the land in Tobago, enticing investors, designing and building Kariwak and equipping it to be a hotel took the next six years.”

They opened the Kariwak Village on Easter weekend in 1982. “The 18 rooms were full. Just before dinner when all the guests must have been in their rooms, showering, there was a big bang and everything went pitch black. TTEC may have miscalculated the load, wires touched… Here we were on Good Friday evening going to every store around for candles and flashlights. We dispensed bottled water for drinking, dipped buckets of water from the pool for baths and toilets.

“It was a case of  ‘if anything can go wrong, it will.’ I think the problem was fixed by the end of the next day.”

Thirty-five years on, Cynthia has given Kariwak her all and is justified in looking forward to a period of “doing nothing.” Over the five months since she made the decision to retire, she has been working to transfer functions and logistics; more importantly, to define the ethos of Kariwak for those who continue to work there as well as visitors.

“I’m not sure how to do that,” but she is trusting that people do understand. “Soul, that’s the essence of what Kariwak offers,” she says, and then quotes Maya Angelou, ““I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Even as she tries to crystallize the system that will maintain and grow the Kariwak relationship with a community that comes from all over the world, she is hopeful that the team including the four persons recently hired, will continue to shape the   soul of the place. She wishes that they will be resilient and adaptable and good-humoured.

“The system is not perfect at all. Staff play the most important role. We have a new chef, an operations manager and two assistants (for two shifts every day). We have always functioned with a team. But new health regulations, new standards, different employee relations, less casual working relationships mean more formal structures in our industry. I hope that people will find their feet and feel at home.”

She is mindful that tiny Kariwak Village has maintained its standards, indeed is a beacon in the industry in Tobago. But Tobago is tiny too; and there are many opportunities based on this closeness, for the hospitality community to work together for the benefit of Tobago.

“The Golden Ring was a concept that Kariwak developed many years ago in which the small properties – hotels and restaurants – could offer guests meal exchanges among their members.”
She was also an advocate of better training for hotel staff, “There should be a team of trainers that would operate among the hotels. These could be persons from tourism agencies, members of ‘golden ring’ properties who would provide motivational sessions.

“I have offered to teach at the hotel school. The Language of Enthusiasm would be my course, but I’m not sure everyone understands how spirit and attitude motivate everything you do, in the kitchen, the restaurant, even cleaning rooms.”
The primary resource for success in hospitality is people, she believes. “The Division of Tourism needs to work directly with the hotels and restaurants. They also need to work harder to understand customers, and the changing market. We need to get into the schools; make hospitality and tourism part of the school curriculum. Engaging young people is crucial to the future success of the industry.”

Cynthia is responsible for the training of scores of persons who have worked at the Kariwak over 35 years. With gentle but firm guidance, she has helped many on their way into the wider world, encouraging them to “take responsibility for what comes out of their mouths.” The few who stayed the course with Cynthia helped her to understand how essential a sense of humour is. They have accepted Cynthia’s vision and taken responsibility for their lives; they will remain the core of the Kariwak to nurture and pass on its ethos.

What’s next for Cynthia? “My real reason for going is to know who I am. For 35 years, Kariwak has defined me and I have defined this place. I want to see who Cynthia is. If I am totally lost without the Kariwak, that will tell me something.
“Outside there, I am certain that my next career will be something to do with food: maybe a soup kitchen; maybe a school feeding or cooking programme.”

Tobago, more than Trinidad, is a microcosm of the world. So many nations fought here in the centuries after discovery; each leaving a piece of their presence somewhere, in the names of places, shipwrecks and bones. Less evident are the legacies of those who come, take nothing, but who change the very air with their presence: with kindness, compassion, discipline, willing to communicate, with humanity. Cynthia and Kariwak have shaped each other; there’s no doubt that she will be back in Tobago one day. (Pat Ganase)



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Exploring Deep Reefs


Anjani Ganase, PhD candidate studying coral reef ecosystems at the University of Queensland in Australia, presents her colleague’s study of differences between coral reefs in shallow and deeper water. The findings in Dr Pim Bongaerts’ research may have implications for coral reefs around the islands off the north of Tobago.


Latest scientific findings reveal that shallow water coral reefs that are more prone to disturbances such as wave action, storm damage and bleaching events, are unlikely to be reseeded by corals living in deeper, more protected waters.  Even though coral species may occur across a large depth range, they can evolve into different strains or  “breeds” adapted to either the shallow or deep water environments, limiting the connectivity between these sections of the reef. These were the finding of Dr. Pim Bongaerts, a coral reef scientist at the University of Queensland in Australia. The story of corals and coral reefs gets even more complicated.

Pim’s interest in coral reefs began in the Western Caribbean. While taking a break from exploring his first love rainforest ecosystems, he learned to dive in Bocas del Toro, an island off the coast of Panama. Pim never returned to the forests, instead he focused his career on understanding the complexities of corals. I met Pim six years ago when he invited me to work with him at the Heron Island Research Station in the Southern Great Barrier Reef. As the head of the Deep Reef Scientific Team (affectionately known as the “Deep Cats”) for the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, he was busy planning his biggest expedition to the Great Barrier Reef where he would explore the largely unknown deep, mesophotic or low-light sections of coral reefs. Researching deeper coral reefs, from 40 m to 150 m, requires considerable planning and training in technical diving to ensure safety while surveying these reefs.
Dr Pim Bongaerts surveying mesophotic (low-light) coral reefs using a dive propulsion vehicle. Photo by The Ocean Agency, XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

The Deep Refuge Hypothesis suggests that while shallow reefs are naturally more prone to physical disturbance such as wave action, or coastal activities, reefs located at greater depth may be more protected from the surface disturbances. Should a shallow reef be damaged or destroyed, these deeper reefs ought to be a potential source of coral re-growth during the recovery stages of the shallow water reef.

Pim wanted to test this theory by looking at the genetic differences between coral species living at different depths. Strong genetic differences between corals from shallow and deep reefs may imply that the coral species have adapted to these distinct reef environments, and that the deep coral may not necessarily be able to survive the shallow water environment. Conversely, a lack of genetic differences means that the corals form a single, interbreeding population and that deep reefs may provide a source of larvae for the shallow. However, proving this genetic variation was not as straightforward as one might think. Pim needed to explore and apply novel genome sequencing techniques for identifying such genetic variations within the same coral species.
Pim in submersible transporting coral samples at depth. Photo by Substation Curaçao.

For this research, Pim went to the remote island of Bermuda in the Western Atlantic. Multiple sites around the island were surveyed at two depths -12 and 40 m. At each location, two coral species with two distinct modes of sexual reproduction (brooding and broadcast spawning) were sampled. Reproduction by broadcast spawning refers to the simultaneous release of coral eggs and sperm into the water column and their fusion in the water column results in coral larvae. The larvae then look for a suitable location to settle and grow. Conversely, brooding corals carry out fertilization internally within the colony and then larvae is released into the water column. As the eggs and sperm from the broadcast coral spend a longer time in the water column, their larvae are more likely to drift much farther distances. These reproductive modes might have influenced the connectivity of coral species between shallow (12 m) and deep (40 m) sites, since the brooding coral species showed greater genetic difference between depth and location compared to the broadcasting coral. Therefore, even though shallow and deep coral reefs may have overlapping coral species, strains of coral species may prefer one depth to the other.
Dr Pim Bongaerts using a remote operated vehicle (ROV) to survey mesophotic coral reefs. Photo by Global Change Institute, University of Queensland.

What does this mean in terms of the survival of our reefs in the broader Caribbean region and Tobago? Pim’s study forces us to consider the diversity of our own coral reefs at different locations and at different depths. There may be greater variations at depth than we can imagine; and therefore different sensitivities to disturbances. Consider the reefs that surround the islands off Speyside in the Atlantic Ocean. Do we even know how much variation exists? The reefs in the sheltered bay of Goat Island are likely to be very different from those on the exposed side of Little Tobago; and different again when we explore deeper. To conserve these coral reef habitats, it is crucial first to protect them – the Marine Protected Area proposed by Environment Tobago is a start – then we can study to fully understand the depths, diversity and uniqueness. This is the nature of eco and educational tourism that we might be exploring.

Link to full publication:
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/2/e1602373.full