by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- NOAA anchored data collection marine buoy on Kahonae reef
- Installation will extend regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network
After what was described as an unusual coral bleaching event from 2014 -2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration (NOAA) embarked on a project that will see the collection of metrological data and oceanographic information to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in changing climatic and sea conditions.
In this regard, NOAA has just anchored a data collection marine buoy on the Kahonae reef off the southern tip of the island, approximately 800 metres from shore. This is part of a research project to collect data on climate, marine, and biological information into the health of coral reefs due to the adverse effects of global climate change.
This installation is among 5 to be installed in the Eastern Caribbean and will extend the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network. This is an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations for the collection and availability of critical data by increasing the data points and improving the region’s ability to track changes in a range of environmental variables including sea temperature and water quality.
The project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is being implemented by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and is being ability assisted by Environmental Moorings International together with Denzel Adams, Coral Nursery Coordinator, within the Marine Protected Areas Unit, Fisheries Division.
The buoys will monitor reef health, sea temperature changes, winds (speed and gusts), barometric pressure, precipitation, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) light, air temperature and salinity.
CCCCC Project Overseer Albert Jones told NOW Grenada the data collection process will revolutionise the way in which coral restoration is carried out. “This data once collected has a whole host of usage where not only does it gives you real-time data as such but it also gives you the capability of making an eco-forecast of what you can expect those environment variables that are collected. Whereas for the health of the coral what we need to know is if there is potential bleaching or hazards of any nature that would affect coral health in that fashion we need to collect as much data as possible.”
According to NOAA, the coral-bleaching event of 2014–2017 was unusual not just for its long duration but also because it wasn’t entirely due to El Niño. Though an El Niño was anticipated in 2014, it didn’t materialise until March 2015, yet bleaching-level heat stress was already well underway by that time. A strong El Niño arrived in 2016, and heat stress occurred at 51% of the world’s coral reefs into early 2017, when a La Niña was in place.
NOAA Engineer Joseph Bishop was instrumental in devising the most effective deployment method to install safely the marine buoys. He says this research is of critical importance to the region’s existing coral reefs.
“It is already known from other areas that high salinity and high temperature in the water cause coral bleaching events, that’s why we are installing these buoys to get a baseline to see what potential and extent of the problem at these different islands; because if we don’t have that information then we will not be able to tell if something changed. Now the data from the buoys is going to be transmitted via mobile phone to shore and then from shore it will come to our office via the regular telephone networks and then we analyse the data and then it will become available on our website.”
The team will next move to Union island and Tobago Cays to deploy another Buoy thereafter will move to the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and St Lucia. Prior to that data, collection buoys were deployed in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic.
Grenada already has established 3 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), namely the Grenada Protected Areas System Plan; Sandy Island/Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area (SIOBMPA) on Carriacou, Moliniere-Beausejour MPA in St George and the Grand Anse MPA. Woburn-Clarkes Court Bay MPA has been approved, but not yet established.
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