Can a significant increase in nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) loading into coastal areas with extensive coral reefs lead to coral mortality because of excessive macro- algal growth?
What is the interactive role of nutrient flux increases (phosphorus and nitrogen) and herbivory in maintaining coral reef areas and reducing macroalgal colonization?
What is the effect of high sediment load in controlling herbivory and macroalgal abundance in coral reefs?
How fast can coral reefs recover from large-scale (e.g., hurricanes, sedimentation) and local (e.g., coral bleach- ing) disturbances? And how do human impacts affect the rate of recovery?
Are there significant long-term differences in nutrient loading in coral reef areas across the Caribbean?
Figure 5. (continued)
presented in this article aim to strengthen research initiatives already present in the region, such as CARICOMP. We envi- sion our research questions as a template to organize and syn- thesize current ecological information and design system-level ecological research in the long term. Accomplishing these tasks will require the active involvement of organizations such as the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network. The ILTER network can help to consolidate and organize regional research efforts with collaboration and support from the US LTER program, in addition to other international organizations (e.g., UNESCO’s MAB [Man and the Biosphere] Programme or the LOICZ [Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone] Project).
Future strategies to advance research on the coastal and oceanic resources of the Caribbean region will need the active participation of scientists, not only in posing ecolog- ically relevant questions but also in designing multi- and interdisciplinary studies in which political and social issues are major components (Balmford et al. 2002). This is partic- ularly true given the diverse geopolitical borders and economic importance of the region. We believe that because of the economic value, large-scale interconnectivity, and complex- ity of the ecological processes in the wider Caribbean re- gion, finding solutions to the area’s environmental problems within the next 10 to 15 years represents a major challenge to estuarine and coastal science.
Acknowledgments This work was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through supplemental funds
provided by the LTER Network Office (University of New Mexico) and the Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) LTER program (grant no. DEB-9910514). Funding by the Insti- tuto Colombiano para el Desarrollo de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (COLCIENCIAS; code no. 2105-13-080-97) to V. H. R.-M., R. R. T., and E. M., and by NSF (DEB-9981535) to I. C. F., contributed to the preparation of the manuscript. This work developed from workshops held at Florida Inter- national University (FIU) in March 2001 and at the Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL), in March 2002. We wish to thank Stephen E. Davis III (Texas A&M University), James Fourqurean (FIU), and Joel C. Trexler (FIU) for their par- ticipation and suggestions during the workshop at FIU. Christopher Madden (South Florida Water Management District [SFWMD]) and Jennifer H. Richards (FIU) con- tributed ideas and suggestions for information analyses in both workshops and during manuscript preparation. The manu- script greatly benefited from comments by Ernesto Medina (Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas and Universidad Central de Venezuela), Carl Fitz (SFWMD), Paula Spiniello (Instituto de Zoología Tropical, Facultad de Ciencias, Uni- versidad Central deVenezuela),and Barbara Hasek (ULL).The authors acknowledge their respective institutions for allow- ing time to travel to the workshops.We want to thank Ed Prof- fitt and Ken Krauss from the USGS National Wetland Research Center, and Paola Reyes, Edward Castañeda, and Osvaldo Perez from ULL, for their help hosting the workshop in Lafayette. Special thanks to Pam Griego (LTER Network Office) and Mike Rugge (FCE LTER program) for help with travel arrangements, and to Vaclav Hasek for preparing figures 1 and 5. This article was greatly enhanced by the critical reviews of Stephen V. Smith and two anonymous reviewers. This is SERC (Southeast Environmental Research Center) and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center contribution 230 and 681, respectively.
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