Interconnectedness: Having internal connections between the parts or elements (Webster)
Coral reefs are like underwater hotels, housing thousands of guests in their colorful, living walls. However, unlike their terrestrial counterparts, coral reefs host thousands of different species; up to 4,000 species of fish and 800 reef-building organisms call coral reefs home.
There are 64 species of coral that have been identified in the world’s oceans. The Caribbean Coast of Guatemala is inhabited by 42 such species, including Montastraea sp, Poriles sp, Acropora sp, Mussa sp and Pseudopexaura sp, just to name a few (sp stands for “species”).
Besides driving tourism and providing sought-after rooms to a host of underwater guests, what do coral reefs actually do? Ana Giro—a 2011 MAR Fellow and the head of reef studies at the Center for Oceanic and Aquaculture Studies at the University of San Carlos, Guatemala—was recently interviewed by Revista D, a weekly editorial of the Free Press and the most-circulated Sunday periodical in Guatemala. In the article, Ana stated: “Without coral reefs, there would be no ecosystem; there would be no marine life.”
Ana’s take on coral reefs points to the high degree of interconnectedness and mutual reliance exhibited in marine communities. Simply put, coral reefs are absolutely essential to the survival and wellbeing of the thousands of species that reside in and around them. Among other things, coral reefs act as safe havens for juvenile fish, nesting areas for lobsters and feeding grounds for predatory fish.
Ana went on to explain that Guatemala’s reefs are located in the Green Caribbean and are known as “patch reefs”—a name that alludes to their short extension and patchy occurrences. According to Giro, there are three patch reefs in Punta de Manabique, two in Amatique Bay and five that inhabit Livingston.
Giro—through her participation in the MAR Leadership Program—is looking to preserve the interconnectedness of Guatemala’s coral reefs and its contiguous human communities through the declaration of Amatique Bay, including Punta de Manabique, as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). She’s working with Blanca Rosa and Pilar Velásquez—also members of the 2011 MAR Leadership Generation—to come up with scientific data that will justify the area’s declaration. It’s worth mentioning that Guatemala currently doesn’t have a single MPA.
MPAs do exactly what their name implies: protect marine areas. The biological residents of MPAs are protected from fishing activity and its side effects and often are adapted into sites for non-extractive uses such as ecotourism, due to the fact that they attract loads of biodiversity.
Ana, Blanca and Pilar’s joint project is just one way to improve the internal connections between the human community at large and the individual parts and elements of the marine system.
Be on the lookout for more updates on Ana, Blanca and Pilar’s project and how you can play a part in preserving interconnectedness.
Photos, in order of appearance
Ana Giro | Siderastrea radians. The coral species doesn’t usually form in big colonies and can be found in Caribbean waters. This photo was taken on the King Fish Reef in Izabal, Guatemala. In the photo we observe a spider crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis).
Javier Ochoa | Blanca Rosa, Ana Giro and Pilar Velásquez, MAR Leaders from the 2011 Cohort in Roatán, Honduas