This week I am at Calabash Caye with my interns and students deploying sediment traps as part of our reef carbonate budgets project. Understanding how carbonate (the limestone rock made by corals and other reef organisms) is being produced, eroded and transported is important to assessing the overall health and structural integrity of the reef. Our sediment traps will tell us about the erosion and transport aspect of this equation. Keeping the reef structure strong is important because many animals, from fish to lobsters, make their home in the cavities of the reef framework. Having a strong reef also helps to protect the island from storms.
Above: Interns and I building sediment traps.
We have placed sediment traps in strategic places around the atoll to measure how much sediment is being carried into the system, how much is being brought out of the reef, and what is being re-incorporated into the framework. This long-term project will give us a holistic view of reef growth and health beyond the traditional measures of biodiversity.
Above: Students hammering rebar to keep traps in place
Above: Students and interns placing traps on reef.
Above: Finished traps in their place in the framework or open sand.
I had so much fun working on this paper with colleagues from UT Austin, Rice University and LSU. It's open access and available for download here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2019.00691/full