Coastal Ecology of the Bahamas

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Dr. Kathleen Sullivan Sealey, a marine biologist from the University of Miami, has been researching the effect that land usage has on the coastal environment in the Bahamas, specifically in three islands: Long Island, Great Exuma Island, and Great Inagua Island. This region of the world has a long history of natural resource exploitation and there is continual pressure to develop the remaining coastline with tourist accommodations. Development, pollution, and presence of invasive plant and animal species are major contributors to the degradation of the coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangrove forests.

Dr. Sullivan Sealey, with the help of Earthwatch volunteers, has been collecting data on water quality, key organisms, and land use along the shorelines. Water quality is of particular interest because slight changes in water chemistry can have detrimental effects on aquatic habitats. Increased development and land modification often causes increased amounts of nitrogen and reduced amounts of oxygen, creating an uninhabitable environment for many species and a loss of biodiversity.

This data has allowed Dr. Sullivan Sealey to create restoration and management plans for many parts of the Bahamas. She has proposed national water quality standards and has involved the local community in the clean-up of Victoria Pond. Continued study in this region is critical for the conservation and preservation of biodiversity.

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