The coral reefs of Banco Capiro in Tela Bay are an ecological mystery; they boast a surprisingly high percentage cover of healthy corals, despite what appear to be unfavourable environmental conditions and a low abundance of reef fish. They are also home to one of the last remaining dense populations of a keystone herbivore, the urchin Diadema antillarum. Operation Wallacea scientists have been monitoring Banco Capiro for a number of years, including both benthic video surveys to assess the health of the reef, and stereo-video surveys to quantify not only fish abundance, but also biomass. In early 2018, the Honduran government designated the area as a new marine protected area (MPA), in an attempt to protect such a valuable and unique marine environment. Students on this project will help expand Operation Wallacea’s long-term monitoring efforts to new reef sites around the bay. By using these data in combination with those from previous years before and after MPA designation, questions can be answered on the impact of this new MPA on the reefs of Banco Capiro, and framed within a broader discussion of the pros and cons of MPAs as a conservation tool.
In the Caribbean, there are a number of core issues that have been affecting the biodiversity of coral reefs, including the mass mortality of keystone sea urchins that have allowed algal colonisation of reef areas, an invasive predator (lionfish) originally from the Indo-Pacific that has spread across the Caribbean, and overfishing of reef fish by local communities. Opwall has two marine research sites in Honduras where these issues and many more are studied: one is on the island reefs of Utila and the second on the coastal barrier reef of Tela. At both sites, teams of Opwall scientists and students collect annual monitoring data to assess temporal patterns in reef community health, alongside novel research to address key conservation priorities and gaps in our current understanding of these fragile ecosystems. Honduras is also home to Opwall’s pioneering efforts to integrate technological solutions into the monitoring and study of coral reefs, including our 3D computer modelling method. Opwall’s team of marine scientists in Honduras helps to support not only international academic research and new method development, but also supports local non-governmental organisations with their efforts to improve marine conservation in Honduras.
Our marine sites are hot and usually dry, but with occasional storms.
Fitness level required
Low. Some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.