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Abstract

Abstract That coralgal reefs recover readily from natural disasters is widely known. Storm destruction even embodies aspects of self-rejuvenation and/or extension of the colony, rather like forest fires. Such natural catastrophes do not affect reefs in ways from which they cannot recover; man affects things differently.

Reefs are abundant on Venezuelan islands, but are limited to local favorable sites on the Caribbean coast. The increase of wealth and travel since World War II has inadvertently resulted in damage to some reefs at Chichiriviche. The small fringing reef there has changed, in a decade, from a healthy reef with a normal complement of fish to a dull and mostly dead mass under turbid water. The reef is rimmed by dead Acropora palmata in growth position; the A. cervicornis and massive corals are partly dead. Soft algae and bryozoans drape most surfaces and the bottom is coated with mud of loose organic floccules and fine mineral sediment. Udotea is uncommon and apparently decadent. Halimeda and Penicilius are more abundant, but are partly dead and heavily coated with the pervasive floccules. Similar conditions prevail on the southwest side of Cayo de Los Muertos and on the patch reefs in Bah’a Chichiriviche.

This damage is due to increase in human and industrial wastes, consequent upon a new public water supply built in 1963. The developed terrain is of highly permeable quartz or skeletal sand, and is less than 2 m in elevation. Both residential and small industrial sources add locally insupportable amounts of particulate and soluble organic wastes by dumping, drainage, or sewage. A cement company dumps its waste, trash from visiting ships, and the rinse from its kiln into the bay.

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