Human Impacts to Coastal Ecosystems in Puerto Rico (HICE-PR): Actual Condition of Coral Reefs Associated with the Guanica and Manati Watersheds in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Juan Luis Torres-Perez1, Maritza Barreto2, Liane S Guild1, Jorge Ortiz3, Shimelis Gebriye Setegn4, Carlos E Ramos-Scharron5, Roy Armstrong6 and Luis Santiago3, (1)NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (2)University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, Graduate School of Planning, San Juan, PR, United States, (3)University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, Cidra, PR, United States, (4)Florida International University, Miami, FL, United States, (5)University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States, (6)University of Puerto Rico, Lajas, PR, United States
For several decades Puerto Rico’s coastal and marine ecosystems (CMEs), particularly coral reefs, have suffered the effects of anthropogenic stresses associated to population growth and varying land use. Here we present an overview of the first year of findings of a NASA-funded project that studies human impacts in two priority watersheds (Manatí and Guánica). The project includes remote sensing analysis and hydrological, ecological and socio-economic modeling to provide a multi-decadal assessment of change of CMEs. The project’s main goal is to evaluate the impacts of land use/land cover changes on the quality and extent of CMEs in priority watersheds in the north and south coasts of Puerto Rico. This project will include imagery from Landsat 8 to assess coastal ecosystems extent. Habitat and species distribution maps will be created by incorporating field and remotely-sensed data into an Ecological Niche Factor Analysis. The social component will allow us to study the valuation of specific CMEs attributes from the stakeholder’s point of view. Field data was collected through a series of phototransects at the main reefs associated with these two priority watersheds. A preliminary assessment shows a range in coral cover from 0.2-30% depending on the site (Guánica) whereas apparently healthy corals dominate the reef in the north coast (Manatí). Reefs on the southwest coast of PR (Guánica) show an apparent shift from hard corals to a more algae and soft corals dominance after decades of anthropogenic impacts (sedimentation, eutrophication, mechanical damage through poorly supervised recreational activities, etc.). Additionally preliminary results from land cover/land use changes analyses show dynamic historical shoreline changes in beaches located west of the Manatí river mouth and a degradation of water quality in Guánica possibly being one of the main factors affecting the actual condition of its CMEs.