As if Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease which took off in Barbados in 2023, followed by widespread coral bleaching associated with extreme warming weren’t enough to challenge our reefs, now marine biologists in the Caribbean are on the lookout for an invasive soft coral originating from the Indo-Pacific.
It is Unomia stolonifera, commonly known as “stoloniferous fire coral”. It will grow over any hard substrate. Currently, it is socked in on reefs and seagrass beds on the northeastern coast of Venezuela, Southeastern Caribbean Sea. It is believed that Unomia stolonifera was introduced via the aquarium trade in the early 2000s. It was first sighted in Venezuela at Valle Seco in 2007. Subsequently “the population has exploded along Venezuela’s coastline and has now been observed spreading east and west into the Caribbean Sea.” (icriforum.org, June 12, 2023) Continue reading →
Posted inBarbados, Invasive Species|Comments Off on Keep an eye out in Barbados for invasive “stoloniferous fire coral” 23Feb2024
ReefVitalize is a new endeavour which, as I understand it from what I have read, seeks to help restore coral reefs while being self-sustaining economically and contributing to local well-being economically and socially.
The main activity of ReefVitalize is the coral frame building activity where a coral frame is getting built by the tourists, corals get attached to it, and then the frame is exposed to the reef. After six months to one year, the corals are getting exposed to the wild reef. The corals get taken off, and the frame can get reused for new corals, which means that there is a consistent cycle of taking young corals, growing them and moving them out to wild reefs. This is helping restore local ecosystems and entire reefs.
…ReefVitalize was founded in 2020, but due to Covid-19, operations were minimal until 2022. So far, the startup operates on two islands – the US Virgin Islands and Barbados.
Screen Captures from AGRRA Interactive Map for the whole region. Below: on Feb 24 (Barbados purple). Above: on Nov 8 (Barbados red). Barbados lies east of and upstream from the other islands of the Lesser Antilles. Click on images for larger version
Up until the time I left (April 7, 2023), the Barbados tag on this map was still coloured purple, meaning all Barbados observations remained under review. The tag was still purple on April 28th. However, on May 8 the tag had flipped to red, meaning enough evidence had accumulated to confirm the presence of SCTLD in Barbados.
Long-spined sea urchin on breakwater in the area of Vauxhall Reef, Barbados, in 2015
The long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) is an important herbivore on Caribbean reefs. In 2022, there was a mass die-off of this sea urchin all over the Caribbean, echoing a similar die-off in the early 1980s.
ABSTRACT Echinoderm mass mortality events shape marine ecosystems by altering the dynamics among major benthic groups. The sea urchin Diadema antillarum, virtually extirpated in the Caribbean in the early 1980s by an unknown cause, recently experienced another mass mortality beginning in January 2022. We investigated the cause of this mass mortality event through combined molecular biological and veterinary pathologic approaches comparing grossly normal and abnormal animals collected from 23 sites, representing locations that were either affected or unaffected at the time of sampling. Here, we report that a scuticociliate most similar to Philaster apodigitiformis was consistently associated with abnormal urchins at affected sites but was absent from unaffected sites. Experimentally challenging naïve urchins with a Philaster culture isolated from an abnormal, field-collected specimen resulted in gross signs consistent with those of the mortality event. The same ciliate was recovered from treated specimens postmortem, thus fulfilling Koch’s postulates for this microorganism. We term this condition D. antillarum scuticociliatosis.
Posted inReef Health|Comments Off on Causative agent for die-off of long-spined sea urchin in 2022 identified 2May2023
UPDATE May 3, 2023 Strange sighting among sargassum seaweed
YouTube Video uploaded May 2, 2023. by Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation
“A blob twice the width of the US is heading towards Florida’s coast” So reads the title of a March 15, 2023 YouTube video in which CNN’s Rosemary Church interviews a leading scientist about a 5,000-mile-wide stinky seaweed blob that’s headed for Florida beaches in the coming months. In the video, Barbados is cited as a place where recently 1600 dump truck-full loads a day were being taken from beaches. Continue reading →
UPDATE Feb 16, 2023: SCTLD or White Plague Disease? – we don’t yet know. Based on some discussion I had recently with an authority on this disease, it’s not clear right now whether SCTLD is present in Barbados or whether what we are looking at is an outbreak of WPD (White Plague Disease)…Reviewing my photos to date with reference to descriptions of WPD and SCTLD in Croquer et al., 2021, my interpretation would lean toward WPD rather than SCTLD.However, I must defer to experts for a definitive ID and as of yet, I am told, there is not enough info. to make one. Read more
Records of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the Caribbean by year as reported on AGGRA 25Jan2023.
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease was first observed off the southeast coast of Florida in 2014 and appeared in the northern Caribbean by 2019. It kills the soft tissues of at least 22 species of corals and has been described as “deadliest coral disease ever recorded” (Wikipedia 25Jan2023).
After reading about this disease in 2018 and the ominous forecasts of what it could do to Caribbean reefs, I kept an eye out for it in the Vauxhall Reef area during my visits in 2018, 2019 and 2020 but saw no sign of it.
In early 2023 we returned to Barbados, Holetown area, after missing a couple of years due to Covid-related issues at home. On January 11, conditions were perfect for snorkelling at the Vauxhall Reef* and I looked out for infected corals… read more
Posted inReef Health|Comments Off on Presumptive Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on Vauxhall Reef & Environs (Barbados) 25Jan2023
The 2020 coral reef report card for Barbados serves to collate decades of existing data into an appealing and easily understood document, to inform policy makers and the general public about the status and trends of the island’s valuable coral reefs.
Indeed it does just that.
View the Report Card on PDF pages 31 to 52 of this publication: