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Diving effect on Caribbean coral reef

As October began, CIEE Bonaire staff published a research paper titled: “The effect of recreational SCUBA divers on the structural complexity and benthic assemblage of a Caribbean coral reef” in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

In this paper, they express how over the past few decades, a number of local, regional, and global stressors have led to declines in the abundance and diversity of coral reefs, also this paper shows some interesting points:

  • Ecotourism, including SCUBA diving, is on the rise worldwide including the Caribbean, where almost US$16 billion and close to 4% of total employment was accounted for by ecotourism in 2012.
  • Bonaire is attractive to tourist SCUBA divers because it is fringed with corals of relatively high abundance compared to the rest of the Caribbean region.
  • SCUBA divers in Bonaire have increased more than doubled from 17,000 in 1991 to 36,444 divers in 2014.
  • Benthic organisms such as branching stony corals and gorgonians that once benefited from the disturbance caused by divers (possibly due to reduced competition with stony corals), may now be negatively affected by the greater amounts of diver traffic.

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