Home Institution

Gettysburg College

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Coral reefs are the most diverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, serving as important habitats to millions of organisms; however, they are disappearing at alarming rates. The major influences causing their decline are the combined effects of global climate change and increased industrialization, urbanization, and agriculture. Previous studies have correlated high coral coverage with high fish diversity; therefore, as coral reefs disappear, so too does fish diversity. This study assesses the health of the fringe reefs of Porvenir Island and Korbisky Island in Guna Yala, Panama by recording the live coral, bleached coral, diseased coral, and algae cover of each reef and recording all fish species seen within 1m to the right of the transect. Ten 15x1m belt transects were taken at the Porvenir fringe reef and set 5m apart and parallel to the shoreline, and five 15x1m belt transects were taken at the Korbisky fringe reef. There is significantly more live coral coverage in the Porvenir reef than the Korbisky reef (p=0.0213, df=223, t=-2.04); however, the Korbisky reef is more diverse (Korbisky reef: H=2.212; Porvenir reef: H=2.060). Additionally, there is no difference in the diseased coral coverage and bleached coral coverage between the two reefs (Bleached: p=0.398, df=223, t=+0.26; Diseased: p=0.0924, df=223, t=+1.33). Based on these results, we can conclude that live coral cover, diseased coral cover, and bleached coral cover do not play a role in fish diversity because the Porvenir fringe reef has more live coral coverage, but less fish diversity than the Korbisky fringe reef.


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Education | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment