Unraveling a resilient reef: structure and composition of Varadero, an imperiled coral reef in the Colombian Caribbean
- Subject Areas
- Biodiversity, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Ecosystem Science, Marine Biology
- Resilience, Caribbean coral reefs, coral reef biodiversity, reef dredging, Paradoxical reef
- © 2017 Pizarro et al.
- This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
- Cite this article
- 2017. Unraveling a resilient reef: structure and composition of Varadero, an imperiled coral reef in the Colombian Caribbean. PeerJ Preprints 5:e3148v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3148v1
Coral reefs supply millions of people with ecosystem goods and services, especially those living along tropical coastlines. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming pace. In the Caribbean, the rate of coral loss is high (5.5 – 9.2% per year) and constant. In 2013, a healthy coral reef was discovered in one of the least expected places within the Colombian Caribbean: at the entrance of Cartagena Bay, a highly-polluted system that receives industrial and sewage waste, as well as high sediment and freshwater loads from an outlet of the Magdalena River (the longest and most populated river basin in Colombia). Here we provide the first characterization of Varadero Reef’s geomorphology and biological diversity. We also compare these characteristics with those of a nearby reference reef, Barú Reef, located in an area much less influenced by the described polluted system. Below the murky waters, we found high coral cover of 45.1% (± 3.9; up to 80% in some sectors), three species of lobster, eight of sea urchin, a fish community composed by 61 species from 24 families, and the typical zonation of a Caribbean fringing reef. All attributes found correspond to a reef that, according to current standards should be considered in "good condition". Current plans to dredge part of Varadero threaten the survival of this reef and could hinder efforts to uncover the underpinnings of this reef’s remarkable resilience. There is, therefore, an urgent need to describe the location and characteristics of Varadero as a first step towards gaining acknowledgement of its existence and garnering inherent legal and environmental protections.
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Varadero and Barú coral species
Table S1. List of scleractinian and fire coral species in Varadero and Northern Barú Reefs. Data are the frequency of occurrence (average,%) or presence/absence (+/--, visual surveys).
Varadero and Barú sponge species
Table S2. List of sponge species comparing two reef zones in Varadero and Northern Barú Reefs. Data are frequency of occurrence (%, 30 x 2 m transects, n = 7 and 4 at Varadero and Barú, respectively), or presence (+, visual surveys).
Varadero and Barú fish species
Table S3. List of fish species observed at Varadero and Barú. Abundance values are mean (± S.D.) number of individuals per species observed in 30 x 2 m belt transects (n = 15 and 7 at Varadero and Barú, respectively). Species observed outside transects are indicated by an x.
Fish species richness variation at Barú and Varadero Reefs
Figure S1. Variation in fish species richness as a function of number of visual censuses (sample-based rarefaction curves) for the fish censuses made at Barú and Varadero Reefs.