How healthy are the coral reefs of Barbados?
Reef health varies by location, being influenced mainly by distance offshore and proximity to land-based sources of marine pollution.
Since at least 1982 there has been generally a net deterioration of the coral reefs off Barbados . This decrease in reef health has been documented on both the south and west coasts. The decline has affected both the fringing and the bank reefs. More specifically, hard coral abundance, the number of hard coral species, and the abundance of encrusting coralline algae, which acts as a settlement cue for coral recruits, decreased significantly between the 1982 and the 1992 monitoring. The abundance of turf algae, which often out competes with hard corals for space on the substrate, however increased significantly during the same period. The CZMU/Bellairs Research Institute monitoring has so far identified 32 hard coral species, and in 1997 detected some recovery on the south and west coasts bank reef sites, with hard coral abundance averaging at 30.7% at the Speightstown site. Reef conditions in 1997 were however not as good as they were in 1982.
The 1998 East Coast Study was the first time Barbados ' Atlantic coast was monitored so no trends could be detected. However, it was still evident that the east coast has been negatively impacted by removal of vegetation, eutrophication and over fishing (removal or grazers). Some areas of the east coast are ecological assets, probably being the richest reef tract, in terms of hard corals, in Barbados and among the richest, in terms of hard coral cover and diversity in the Caribbean (Halcrow 1998). Some of the 1998 transects topped 35% hard coral coverage. Some sections of the east coast also support the rare black coral Antipathes sp., the Elk horn coral Acropora palmata and the Nassau grouper.