Everyone knows that the coral reefs of the Caribbean are a pale shadow of what they once were, but just how bad is it?
To find out we (aka the O’Dea lab) are travelling back in time to when humans had little or no impact on Caribbean reefs.
Follow the expeditions to collect samples of modern and fossil reefs across the Caribbean.
Keep up with discoveries back in the lab, as we extract thousands of fossil corals, fishes, sponges, crabs, snails, clams and microorganisms.
When put together, these remnants of life on long-disappeared reefs can paint a picture of what coral reef ecosystems were like before human interference, in all their functional and spatial variation.
We will explore fundamental questions about change and variation of Caribbean coral reefs, such as
- What were the ecological differences in the communities of boney fishes, corals and molluscs in past reefs?
- How abundant were high trophic level fish and sharks before human fishing?
- Have reef animals altered the way they grow and reproduce over time and if so are the changes hereditable?
- Are there reefs today that can be considered functionally “pristine”? What is special about those places and how can they direct good conservation practice?
- What hope is there for Caribbean reefs? Can we, and should we, invest in returning to “pristine” conditions?