Long-term monitoring of Bermuda's coral reefs,         seagrass beds and mangrove forests.


The long-term monitoring program of seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangroves in Bermuda concluded its sixth year of data collection 1998.  This work is done in parallel with 20 other sites in the Caribbean and results in a regional database of physical and biological variables in these key coastal ecosystems.  The most surprising result is that the majority of the reefs monitored by CARICOMP scientists are dominated by algae and, in many locations, coral coverage has declined.

This is the scenario that coral reef scientists in the Caribbean have been most concerned about: a transition from coral reefs to algal reefs due to perturbation of the coastal zone by human activities.  Fortunately, Bermuda's reefs do not show these patterns and we believe this is due to the sensible decision in 1990 to eliminate fish traps that were reducing the population of parrotfishes, which help control reef algal abundance.

Another result of the comparison of Bermuda to the Caribbean sites is that the productivity and growth patterns of both our seagrass and mangroves are very similar to those in the Caribbean. This is quite interesting considering the great temperature range and reduced day lengths in winter at our high latitude.