IUCN has published a study on the various resilience characteristics of the coral reefs in the Bonaire National Marine Park. It includes results on resilience indicators, benthic cover, coral population structure, algae populations and fish community structure which can determine how the coral reefs respond to climate change threats. The aim of the study is to provide information on how to incorporate resilience information and climate change responses into the Marine Protected Area (MPA) design and management, especially given the recent bleaching event that occurred in 2010-2011.
Bonaire’s coral reefs remain among the healthiest and most resilient in the Caribbean. However, the IUCN study highlights that they are threatened by coastal development and artificial beaches, sewage leaching from septic tanks, increasing populations of damselfish that destroy coral, as well as animals and algae such as the Trididemnum and the Lobophora that grow over and out-compete corals. The study argues that these threats could have serious implications for resilience to future climate change and other threats.
The sites were also ranked on their overall resilience and suggestions were made to improve their management.
Since Bonaire heavily depends on tourism, where coral reefs are the major attraction, their health and attractiveness can directly influence the island’s economy. Protecting this valuable natural resource is crucial for the livelihoods of the island’s inhabitants. There is much to lose economically and socially, as well as in terms of food security, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, if the coral reefs become too degraded.
This study is based on survey conducted from 31 May to 7 June, 2009 as part of the IUCN Climate Change and Coral Reefs Working Group global coral reef resilience assessments. The survey was made possible by the generous support of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire and the Bonaire National Marine Park manager, Ramon de Leon. Partners included The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (CARMABI), the University of Maine and Yale University.
Read the study Coral Reef Resilience Assessment of the Bonaire National Marine Park.