Alternate Title

Coral Reefs of Miskitus Cays, Nicaragua

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The Miskitus Cays, on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, consist of eighty mangrove and two sand and gravel cays, surrounded by seagrass beds, octocoral gardens, patch reefs, reef crests, extended algae platforms, short reef walls, and two marginal reefs around the sand cays. Seventy sites were inspected and eighteen sites were selected for rapid assessments in order to determine the status of the coral reefs. Linear transects and the intercept point methods were used to determine the relative benthic cover, and the density, size and health of coral colonies was estimated following the AGRRA protocol. Water was highly turbid due to the shallowness of the reefs and high wave energy. Northwest reefs, closer to the Coco river mouth, were affected by terrestrial sediments and were overgrown by algae whereas storm damage was evident in the eastern reef crest fronts. In total, 39 stony coral species were found and 12 new species were reported for Cayos Miskitus. Mean live coral cover was high (43.4%), but it was still lower than the algae cover (54.2%). Mean coral diameter (59.7 cm) and height (4.2 cm) were high but total mortality (27.9%), bleaching (4%) and diseases (3%) were low. Reefs of Nicaragua are in the best condition of the Caribbean region of Central America but good management of the fisheries, the marine reserve, and the Coco river basin are urgent to maintain reef quality.

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