Macroalgae taking over Caribbean coral reefs: searching for management solutions

Renata Ferrari Legorreta

The current research investigates the effects of seaweed competition on coral growth rate and survival. While previous work has shown that seaweed can reduce growth rate, fecundity and survival of corals, most of these studies took place in the Pacific and none has carried out a systematic analysis across a range of species, and types of seaweed-coral interactions. In the long term, these results will be incorporated into simulation models of Caribbean ecosystems to predict the recovery of the Caribbean reef building coral (Montastraea annularis) following large-scale disturbances. The data from the models will enable the adequate level of management and protection of Montastraea reefs, building the ecosystems’ resilience and allowing their maximum recovery in the shortest period possible. For example, what is the ideal reef complexity for herbivores, or what is the threshold in size coral colonies need to reach in order to be able to survive seasonal seaweed blooms.