The biotic components of any ecosystem are sculpted, at least in part, by the abiotic conditions they are exposed to. Understanding the abiotic variables present in a system can therefore provide clues helping to explain patterns in biodiversity, productivity, community composition and more. Located in Honduras’ mainland Tela Bay, Banco Capiro is a newly discovered reef system that boasts one of the highest covers of healthy coral anywhere in the Caribbean. Yet at first glance Tela Bay seems an unlikely candidate for such a natural wonder, thanks to increased turbidity and close proximity to a sizeable human settlement and riverine input. The mystery behind this unique reef system is yet to be fully understood, and this project will quantify a range of abiotic variables to shed light on the conditions Banco Capiro exists under. These data will be combined with in-situ habitat surveys to quantify spatial patterns of reef health, biodiversity and community composition, allowing students to tease apart the relationships between abiotic and biotic variables.
In the Caribbean, there are a number of core issues that have been affecting the biodiversity of the coral reefs – including the mass mortality of keystone sea urchins that have allowed algal colonisation of reef areas, an invasive species originally from the Indo-Pacific (lionfish) that acts as a predator on reef fish which has been spreading across the Caribbean, and overfishing of reef fish by local communities. Opwall has two monitoring sites in Honduras: 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 of ecosystem change, alongside novel research to address key management priorities and gaps in our current understanding of tropical marine coastal ecosystem function.
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.