St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Magens Bay.jpg

Virgin Island Marvels

Mangroves & Coral in Hurricane Hole

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Virgin Islands  National Monument

When President Bill Clinton established the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in 2001, it set aside a huge swath of reef ecosystem in the Caribbean for visitors to enjoy and scientists to monitor. Within the monument is Hurricane Hole, a sheltered bay on the northeast side of the island of St. John’s that has offered ships refuge from storms for hundreds of years. The area is known for its lush habitat of coastal mangroves, whose submerged roots offer shelter for dozens of fish and other aquatic life.

 

Hurricane Hole

Coral Reef Island

As it turns out, Hurricane Hole shelters more than just ships and fish. Several years ago, scientists discovered that the unique coastal mangrove environment of the bay is also harboring coral species. Normally, coral does not find a home among the submerged roots of mangrove trees because the water is typically too dirty and not salty enough.

Pink Earth

Why Coral Is Thriving in Hurricane Hole

However, outside of rainwater, there are no rivers or major freshwater dumps in Hurricane Hole, so the water has a higher salinity. Additionally, the presence of mangroves and other reef-affiliated flora and fauna, including seagrass and patch reefs, helps keep Hurricane Hole a low-pH zone in which coral can thrive. Shade from mangrove trees also appears to lessen the intense heat that causes coral bleaching. Scientists believe that some local coral species may be gravitating toward the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and Hurricane Hole as climate change worsens reef conditions in the greater Caribbean.

Underwater Photography
Marine Biologist

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These kinds of adaptations and insights only come with properly protected ecosystems and the dedication and funding of researchers. At Alpha Submarine Adventures, we are proud to be supporting marine research in the Virgin Islands with every dive. Learn more about our mission here, and donate what you can today!

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