July 3, 2019

Colombia’s Corales de Paz Completes First Survey of Providencia

Submitted by Corales de Paz

Corales de Paz began its survey year with an expedition to Providencia in the Insular Region of Colombia in the Caribbean, marking the first trip to the island since the relaunch of Reef Check Colombia in 2017. This unique island still conserves its natural wealth, guarded carefully by its citizens, since they depend on activities related to eco-tourism, scuba diving, and native cultural activities. Providencia is famous among underwater enthusiasts for the presence of reef sharks and for the tolerance and respect that locals give to these animals, understanding that they are much more valuable and attractive when they are alive and protected. Corales de Paz plans to survey these sites during the first quarter of every year, to monitor the condition of the coral community at the end of the dry season in the Caribbean, in one of the paradises for diving and nature tourism in Colombia and a benchmark for conservation and sustainability for the world.

A team of 11 Reef Check EcoDivers, two scientific leaders from Corales de Paz and two dive leaders surveyed four of the most frequented dive sites on the island: Mantas, Tetes, Bajo de San Felipe and Loro Town. In general, the monitoring results show that the abundance of parrotfish (Scaridae) and surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) were similar at all sites; these are herbivorous fish that control macroalgae. The abundance of grunts or margates (Haemulidae) was also similar at all the monitored sites. There was a greater abundance of groupers (carnivorous fish of the Serranidae family) of more than 30 cm in length when compared to other sites monitored by the Reef Check Colombia program since 2017, such as San Andres Island and Santa Marta. Groupers are commercially important and show the wealth of usable resources still preserved for the people of the island.

Nutrient indicator algae coverage was estimated at 12%, lower than the average reported for San Andres in October 2018, estimated at 20%. Live coral cover was estimated at 18%, which is above the average reported for Caribbean coral reefs (16.8%, Jackson et al 2014 Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs). It is pleasing to report that the percentage of coral bleaching observed was less than 1% of the population.

It is important to note the absence of trash and physical impacts on the reef. This has been achieved thanks to the intervention of local environmental authorities in deploying anchor buoys for the dive sites, and thanks also to the people of the island for managing their garbage and waste.

Thanks to the participation of the most committed Reef Check EcoDivers, this expedition allowed Reef Check Colombia to carry out the first assessment of the health and condition of the reefs on Providencia with a group of citizen scientists. Thanks to the unconditional support of the inn Nativa Barracudas Camp and the dive center Entre Mares Providencia that made this event possible.