Mangrove Die-off Development project
Layman, Craig Anthony

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Description:
 

Foundation species are those that form the basis for entire ecosystems, substantially altering the physical and biological characteristics of the areas in which they are found. Mangroves are one of the most conspicuous groups of foundation species, providing numerous ecosystems services which we highly value, e.g., habitat for ecologically and economically important species, shoreline stablilization and carbon storage. As such, global declines in mangroves is of upmost concern. For example, an extensive die-off of dwarf red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) has been identified in a remote area on the west side of Abaco Island, The Bahamas. Because of its remote nature of the site, the die-off is unlikely to be directly due to human activities. Despite its largely inaccessible nature, the area is ecologically and economically important, e.g., it is the primary bonefishing area on Abaco - an industry worth more than $150 million annually in The Bahamas. Therefore, it is of pressing concern for stakeholders in The Bahamas to identify the underlying cause(s) of decline and assess potential threat to mangroves in other areas. To do so, a series of activities will be carried out, included widespread surveys for a recently identified fungal pathogen, laboratory efforts to isolate and identify this pathogen, satellite imagery mapping activities, and simulated grazing experiments. The area in which the die-off is occurring is currently being considered for designation as a national park by the Bahamian National Trust (BNT). The results of the study will be directly communicated to the BNT and will be used to make immediate management decisions. In collaboration with two Bahamian environmental NGOs, Friends of the Environment and Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF), a citizen science-based survey for fungal lesions, as well as an educational module on mangrove ecology, will be designed. The data from the citizen-science and student surveys will be integrated in a map of the incidence of the lesions across The Bahamas. The citizen-science component, and interaction with bonefish guides, provides the opportunity to further integrate science and education. The educational module will be introduced at the BREEF summer teaching training workshop in July. This annual event typically includes ~30 teachers from ~10 islands. We will continue to make all of our research findings immediately available and accessible to the public through the Abaco Scientist website (http://appliedecology.cals.ncsu.edu/absci/).

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Dates:
  02/01/2015 - 01/01/2018
Funding Agency(s)/Sponsor(s):
  National Science Foundation¬†(NSF) | North Carolina State University


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