CREWS to Monitor Belize’s Coral Reefs
In late November, the ERI along with personnel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center conducted visits to different coral reef sites in the Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Reef Atoll and the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. These visits were with the purpose of identifying suitable locations for the installation of a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS). This state of the art technology is used to monitor the conditions of the coral reef environment. They record temperature, salinity, light, currents, solar radiation, chlorophyll and other environmental parameters. A network of these CREWS stations are being installed globally with several already with the Caribbean and installations in Belize (Western Caribbean) would complete the Caribbean network.CREWS transmits real time data to NOAA via satellite, NOAA then publishes this data to an online global database for access by the scientific community. Having access to real time data on the conditions of our marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, will assist in the protection and management of coral reef and other related environments through monitoring and research using the data produced.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, in partnership with NOAA, will fund the installation of CREWS stations at Calabash Caye and one near South Water Caye. These stations will be maintained and monitored monthly. The ERI will be responsible for the Calabash Caye CREWS through the staff of its marine field station in close proximity. Real time data transmission as provided by this system is essential for quick action to respond to disturbances such as algal blooms like that which occurred in southern Belize in summer of 2011.