Fringing reefs that have formed
close to shore are with one exception found along the north and
east coast of Dominica. This is the windward side of the island
and exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, a perfect location for the
branching stony coral Acropora palmata. This coral is fast-growing
(several cm a year), and thrives in high energy locations like
reef crests or Dominica's Atlantic shores. In Dominica A. palmata
is the principle framework builder of the near-shore fringing
reef systems along the north and eastern shores. Nevertheless,
this species has suffered from massive die off throughout the
Caribbean over recent decades (possibly induced and/or enhanced
by pathogens). The only shallow, fringing reefs found along the
west coast are at Toucari (northen west coast) and at Cachacrou
(southern west coast), however, A. palmata is and was not
an important framework builder at these leeward locations.
A. palmata played an important role in the construction
of windward reefs, its extremely low live cover raises concern
as to whether or not these reefs will continue to grow or not.
Currently encrusting brain corals, colonial zoanthids, fire corals
and encrusting red algae maintain the overall structure "cemented"
together, while massive non-branching corals provide some new
lateral framework. All these systems have very shallow reef flats,
upon which encrusting fauna and flora dominate in a fairly homogenous