ITME - Marine Habitats of Dominica Version 2008

Fringing Reefs (shallow)


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.

While 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 distribution.

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Acropora palmata
(top le) was an important reef-building species in Dominica's near-shore fringing reefs. Although its current live cover is low, the reef formation can still clearly be attributed to this species. Encrusting Diploria spp. (bottom le), "hold down" seaward portion of the reef flat as well as some of the flanks where the massive S. siderea (top ri) provides structural support. Along the fore reef area (bottom ri) sheet-like growth forms of Diploria and Agaraicia maintain the "growing" edge of the reef.

Good examples of these reefs can be seen at Anse Soldat, Anse De Mai, Woodford Hill (NORTH) Middle Bay, Anse Quanery and Grand Marigot Bay (EAST).

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