Home Institution

Rice University

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


Because worldwide declines coral reef health are of major concern, studying coral reefs through the lens of conservation efforts at local scales is essential for determining and monitoring effective policy measures. In the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, there are conflicts of interest between exploitative rapid tourism development, overfishing practices, and national efforts to conserve the local marine biodiversity. Coral and reef fish species abundance richness, diversity, evenness, and similarity were measured to see how coral and reef fish assemblages changed between protected and unprotected areas. A total of 329 fish and 322.5 square meters of benthos were analyzed using underwater photo and video data along three 30 meter transects in Coral Cay, Hospital Point, and Piña Cay in November 2016. Unprotected sites (Coral Cay and Hospital Point) showed a significantly higher fish abundance and overall higher fish species diversity than the protected site (Piña Cay), however the protected area surveyed had a higher overall benthic macrofauna diversity. All sites were statistically different from each other in major benthic macrofauna categories, including gorgonian, macroalgae, and sand/rubble/pavement cover. There was no clear relationship between the coral cover and fish abundance in sites. Despite establishing statistical significance in some comparisons, all the conclusions were complicated by differences in weather conditions and depth between sites during data collection.


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Environmental Health | Environmental Studies | Latin American Studies | Life Sciences | Other Animal Sciences | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology | Tourism



Article Location