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Assessment of the Impact of Super Storm Sandy on Coral Reefs of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
SPACE AND NAVAL WARFARE SYSTEMS CENTER PACIFIC SAN DIEGO United States
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The National Marine Fisheries Service considers the near-shore coral reefs at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba GTMO as a reference for comparison to other Caribbean near-shore coral reef habitats due to their relatively good condition. These reefs were affected by Hurricane Sandy, which impacted GTMO on October 25, 2012. This report presents a post-hurricane assessment of impacts to the reefs conducted by a marine ecologist from Space and Naval Warfare systems Center Pacific SSC Pacific and a marine ecologist from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Expeditionary Warfare Center NAVFAC EXWC to assess extent and severity of impact from the hurricane. Survey results showed increased disease and decreased biodiversity. Specifically, all colonies of Montastrea cavernosa within the mosaics exhibited disease, and species such as Agaricia tenuifolia, Copophyllia natans, Dichocenia stokesii, Diploria strigosa, and other Porites species, which were previously recorded at the Cuzco control site, were not observed in the Cuzco mosaic. Of further concern is the decrease in average coral cover at several of these areas. GTMO requires more frequent surveys analysts to understand the dynamics and status of the coral ecosystem there, and to obtain accurate and consistent results. Given recent studies showing increased stressors such as nutrient loads and higher sea surface temperatures, a long-term health-status program should be established. Even if a consistent monitoring program is established at GTMO, it will take many years to fully understand the extent of impact multiple stressors are placing on coral and whether these reefs are resilient enough to maintain acceptable biodiversity and percent coverage at sustainable levels.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE