Snorkeling in the Mangroves - Before

Snorkeling in the Mangroves - After

Star Coral Study in Hurricane Hole

Corals do not typically thrive in mangrove environments. However, corals are growing on and near the prop roots of red mangrove trees in Hurricane Hole, an area within the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument under the protection of the US National Park Service in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Research funded by Friends and published by Dr. Caroline Rogers in Unique Coral Community in the Mangroves of Hurricane Hole, St. John, US Virgin Islands  (published in August 2017) summarizes current knowledge of the remarkable biodiversity of Hurricane Hole. Over 30 scleractinian coral species, about the same number as documented to date from nearby coral reefs, grow here. No other mangrove ecosystems in the Caribbean are known to have so many coral species. This area may be a refuge from changing climate, as these corals weathered the severe thermal stress and subsequent disease outbreak that caused major coral loss on the island’s coral reefs in 2005 and 2006. Shading by the red mangrove trees reduces the stress that leads to coral bleaching. Seawater temperatures in these mangroves are more variable than those on the reefs, and some studies have shown that this variability results in corals with a greater resistance to higher temperatures. The diversity of sponges and fish is also high, and a new genus of serpulid worm was recently described. 

Following the 2017 hurricanes, Dr. Rogers evaluated the impact in Immediate Effects of Hurricanes on a Diverse Coral/Mangrove Ecosystem in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Potential for Recovery (August 2019) She finds that damage was particularly severe in this unique mangrove/coral ecosystem but although many corals were overturned or buried in rubble, colonies of most of the species, including four that are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, survived.

Caroline Rogers is a Marine Ecologist with the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center based at the USGS Caribbean Field Station in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Previously, she was a research biologist with the National Park Service in Virgin Islands National Park (1984 – 1993).  She has over 30 years of experience in research on coral reefs and has published papers on coral diseases, the effects of sedimentation, effects of hurricanes, damage from boat anchors, long-term monitoring, reef productivity, coral recruitment, and the threatened coral species Acropora palmata. She is the Vice President of the International Society for Reef Studies.

April 7, 2018 Presentation by Dr. Caroline Rogers on her observations of Hurricane Hole post-hurricanes of 2017.

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