Coral reef warning system installed

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute, in partnership with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory has moved a step closer toward understanding the signals of global climate change and the resulting stressors to Cayman’s coral reefs.

Reef garden

Undersea reef garden

They recently announced the completion of the final stage of implementation and operation of a new coral reef early warning system station, as part of the Integrated Coral Observing Network just north of CCMI’s Little Cayman Research Centre near icon Reef. Located directly off shore from the LCRC, the 40-ft pylon is standing in seven meters of water and is securely mounted to hardpan bedrock to withstand a major hurricane.

The data from the station is currently being reported close to real-time and integrated with satellite data on the web. Such data includes wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, light, sea temperature, pressure and salinity.

Additional sensors will be added in the future to augment new and continued research programs near LCRC and the adjacent Bloody Bay Marine Park. The data will also be reported to the Cayman Islands Weather Service and to the National Weather Service.

The Icon and Crews project was funded by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. ‘The Icon/Crews station on Little Cayman has far- reaching implications for improving the technological and scientific capacity for our islands,’ said Ms Carrie Manfrino, president and director of research and conservation.

‘We immediately have a better understanding of our weather and we can now establish a timeline to track longer-term changes in our ocean environments, including the causes and effects of environmental changes on our local coral reefs. The near-live data streaming from the station is an incredible resource for teaching and for improving ocean literacy,’ said Ms. Manfrino.

By installing additional instruments that will monitor ocean chemistry, including carbon dioxide, ‘we will become a unique piece of the global climate change puzzle,’ noted Dr. Manfrino. ‘Little Cayman and the Cayman Islands are strategically located for work on coral reefs because we have a relatively ‘pure’ oceanographic signal. The islands are surrounded by the open ocean, and they have well developed coral reefs.’

CCMI’s new Managing Director Brenda Gadd, further added, ‘the project is an important technological step for CCMI in that it will play a key role in building long-term synergistic partnerships with NOAA and the Cayman Islands that will bring new funding and new capabilities to Cayman, more specifically to such local government agencies as the Department of Environment, National Hurricane Service and the National Weather Service.

She continued, ‘Furthermore, as a direct result of this project, CCMI will be better positioned to become an important resource for global predictions of risk. We are the first independent scientific organisation in the world to participate in this type of program. Likewise, we are the only ICON ocean observatory in international waters. CCMI is at the cutting edge of science.’

The near-live data streaming from the station is an incredible resource for teaching and for improving ocean literacy.’