113 Photos - Jan 24, 2015
Photo: Photo: Spur and groove reefs typical of west coast of Barbados are just beyond the artificial breakwaters. The catamaran in the centre of the photo is moored by a wreck deliberately sunk in 1985. It is one of the most popular snorkelling sites in Barbados. 

---------------- About this album -----------------

This album contains photos from a fringing reef on the leeward, west coast of Barbados, just south of the center of Holetown, accessed intermittently by snorkelling between Jan 22 and April 21, 2015. Coordinates for Site: 13.179837, -59.640532  The  site  lies in the Recreational Zone of the Folkestone Marine Reserve. 

This reef complex hosts high numbers and diversity of fishes and exhibits high coral cover in the outer zones. Of special note is the occurrence of  recently established colonies of the three species of Acropora occurring in the Caribbean: A. palmata,  A. cervicornis and A. prolifera, all considered endangered and not seen in these waters for several decades or longer. That's encouraging, given the prevalence of mostly bad news about the state of coral reefs globally. Thanks to Bajans (Barbadians) for their efforts to protect and nurture these reefs.

I am posting these photos to share my enthusiasm for the site,  in some small way to help document its current state (2015)*, and to encourage others to do more of the same.  I am including extracts from John Lewis's classic paper on the Barbados Fringing Reefs (Lewis, 1960), essentially as a check list of species that were common in the 1950s. How many of the species and features described by Lewis can be found on today's reefs in Barbados?  That's a great topic for investigation by nature lovers of all ages. 
* Unfortunately ongoing and impending developments in the immediate area could be the death knell for this reef unless managed very strictly to limit their environmental impacts.

I welcome use of the photos for educational purposes and nature-oriented advocacy. View  Creative Commons License at http://versicolor.ca/reeflicense
-David P April 7, 2015

- David Patriquin
  Professor of Biology (retired)
  Dalhousie UniversityPhoto: The reefs I describe lies in the southern part of  the Recreational Zone of Barbados' Folkestone Marine Reserve.

Map from  http://www.nccbarbados.gov.bb/mpaPhoto: John Lewis described the Barbados reefs in 1960.*  While there has been considerable degradation of nearshore reefs since then (and even before then), his zones for the west coast fringing reefs can still be recognized, as at left, beginning inshore with the Reef Flat Zone.  D-P refers to the Diploria-Palythoa zone.

The Reef Crest and Seaward Slope exhibit a Spur and Groove structure  ("parallel linear spur (ridges) of active coral growth separated by grooves (depressions) of accumulated sediment and coral debris... See: https://sites.google.com/site/coralreefsystems/videos/short-movies/reef-dynamics

Fortuitously or not, this fringing reef has a much higher proportion of healthy corals than several other sites I looked at in the MPA, including reef in the Scientific Zone and reefs just south and just north of the reef area in the Google Map at left. So the area of healthy fringing reef, perhaps 1/2 hectare altogether, appears to be quite restricted in extent and somewhat of an anomaly.

There are some new constructions onshore not yet off the ground. I hope the Barbados Government ensures that swimming pool water  & sewage are not dumped into the area once they are developed. Swimming pool water in particular can be very damaging to corals because of the chlorine and algicides. Nutrients in sewage cause excessive growth of seaweeds. Nearshore sedimentation appears to be fairly well controlled in this area. 
*Lewis, J. B. (1960). "The coral reefs and coral communities of Barbados, W.I." Canadian Journal of Zoology 38 : 1133-1145.

Information about the wreck, deliberately sunk in 1985, can be viewed at:
http://www.mydestination.com/barbados/travel-articles/721011/shipwrecks-of-barbadosPhoto: Typical assemblage, 10-15 ft below LW, >85% living coral cover in the Seaward Slope Zone. 

Today, the healthiest corals and the greatest coral cover and diversity occur in the Seaward Slope, Reef Front, and Deep Water Community Zones.

Photos were taken with a Sealife MicroHD or an Olympus Tough TG3 in an Olympus PT-052 Underwater Housing, mostly the former.  

My last proper underwater camera was a Nikonos II which I used in these waters in the late 1960s. Later on I will add some pics from that era before the onset of coral bleaching and a plethora of novel diseases and other disturbancesPhoto: Princess Parrotfish, Olympus Jan 27

There is a  diversity of fishes throughout the site, more so than I recall from the 1960s, which can be attributed to a ban on fishing in the MPA (established 1981); as well, this site retains a diversity of corals and other invertebrates a lot of structural integrity.Photo: Ecotourism - it seems to have few if any negative impacts on the life below.

This site is one of the most  most popular  for ecotourism in Barbados, the glass bottom boats and catamarans and other vessels tying up to moorings in the area of a wreck (see diagram; slide 3). Hundreds of visitors snorkel the area each day during the peak tourist season. Other than throwing bread into the waters above the wreck to attract fish, I saw no obvious disturbance of the area by the ecotourism activities.

It's a good illustration of how even a small but healthy natural  area can have substantial economic benefits.Photo: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Finger coral, Porites porites in the Seaward Slope ZonePhoto: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Pencil Coral (Madracis sp.- and Square Stinging Coral (Millepora squarrosa) in the Seaward Slope ZonePhoto: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata in the Reef Crest Zone. I was surprised and very pleased to see this coral, a major reef-building species that  was largely killed off on the west coast of Barbados in the 1940s or earlier due to high sedimentation, and  largely eliminated  though the Caribbean in the 1980s by a disease. This a very young colony. I sighted one other, larger colony. A positive factor: there was only sparse algal growth on the old coral substrate even though no sea urchins were sighted. (The sea urchin Diadema antillarum is an important grazer of seaweeds.) Improved control of sewage disposal  and possibly reduced sedimentation may be factors that have improved habitat for shallow water corals at some sites in Barbados. This site also benefits from being in Barbados' Marine Protected Area.   January 23, 2015.

A government biologist told me they have been seeing occasional colonies of Acropora palmata, but they appear to stop growing after a relatively short period.Photo: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) in the Deep Water Zone. Like A. palmata, this species crashed in the 1980s so is a welcome sight today.Photo: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: & Acropora prolifera (a hybrid between A. palmata and A. cervicornis) in the Diploria-Palythoa Zone!!!! (17 colonies sighted). I have reported this to government biologists and inquired whether they are being monitored; no response yet.
More about this species and site at https://plus.google.com/photos/110155833567072600167/albums/6129137315083043537Photo: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS:  Pillar coral, Dendrogyra cylindrus (tentative ID) in the Seaward Slope ZonePhoto: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Spotted Moray. Common, but cryptic.Photo: A FEW HIGHIGHTS: Schools of Blue Tang are common throughout.Photo: A FEW HIGHLGHTS: Four-eye Butterfly In the Reef Crest Zone.Photo: Lionfish - I had expected to see many of this invasive species, but saw only 2 over three months. - so not seeing them was a highlight. I believe the numbers are kept low by targeted fishing for Lionfish.Photo: A few highlights: Stonefish, common but cryptic. (Beware!)Photo: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS: Trumpet fish. Aulostomus maculatus. Common and fun to watch.Photo: Back to shore. Fisheye lens perspective, not a giant wave! The next set of photos go from the shore outwards, progressing from the Reef Flats Zone, through the Diploria- Palythoa Zone, the Reef Crest, the Seaward Slope, The Reef from and finally  the Deep Water Communities Zone.Photo: Map showing the zones and locations of three acroporoid corals. Acerv=Acropora cervicornis; Apal=Acropora palmata; Apro=Acropora proliferaPhoto: Landward edge of Reef Flat Zone, circa 8 meters from shore(at the mean Low Water mark). The sand is at approx. 80 cm depth.  

The Reef Flat "is limited on the inner edge by a sand beach and the shifting of the beaches during periods of heavy seas makes this landward limit very unstable" (Lewis, 1960). The leafy alga is Padina sp.

More from Lewis (1960) on the  Reef Flat Zone:
"A characteristic feature of Barbadian reefs is a wide band of nearly flat reef-rock surface lying between the shore and the zones of actively growing coral. It varies in width from 10 to 70 meters and is on the average about 50 meters wide. It is limited on the inner edge by a sand beach and the shifting of the beaches during periods of heavy seas makes this landward limit very unstable. The outer edge is defined by an increasing irregularity of the bottom and by the appearance of the encrusting coral Diploria clivosa and the colonial zooanthid Palythoa mammillosa.

"It is a shallow area with a depth of no more than 1 foot of water at mean low tide at its inner edge and 1 to 3 feet at its outer limit. The inner edge remains barely wetted at low water spring tides."

(...continued by next photo.)Photo: Juvenile Sargeant Majors in the Reef Flat Zone, a few meters from shore. This area seems to provide a refuge for these small fish where they are free from predators. The leafy seaweed is a species of Padina.

From Lewis (1960) on the Reef Flat Zone (continued from previous page)

"The bottom consists chiefly of reef debris, flat circular stones, loosely cemented calcareous fragments mixed with sand, or a flat rock pavement. The rock pavement is usually
covered with a thick algal turf composed of a filamentous green alga which holds and binds fine sand grains, or the surface may be bare with a coating of pink or purple coralline algae. Three species of algae regularly achieve attachment in this zone, a Sargassum sp., a Padina sp., and a Dictyota sp. They fasten both to the rock pavement and to the surface of the large boulders. In a few places the turtle grass, Thallasia testudinum, flourishes but this species is not typical of exposed reef flats."

(Continued on next page)Photo: In Reef Flat Zone.
From Lewis (1960): Reef Flat Zone (concluded):

"The only coral which is common on the reef flat is the small encrusting species, Siderastrea radians. Scattered colonies, a few inches in diameter, are common on all reef flats. Stunted colonies of the branching Porites porites occur occasionally in the Thallasia beds. While corals are poorly represented in the reef flat zone, there is often a rich variety of other invertebrates. Beneath the flattened boulders, large numbers of the ophiuroids, Ophiocoma echinata and 0. riisei, occur. Other common forms are the echinoids, Tripneustes esculentus and Echinometra lucunter; the burrowing spatangoid, Brissus brissus; the holothurians, Holothuria arenicola, H. parvula, and Stichopus badionotus; the asteroids, Linckia guildingii and Ophidiaster guildingii; the whelk, Thais deltoidea; the hermit crabs, Erpiphia gonogra and Clibanarius tricolor; several species of porcellanid and grapsoid crabs; and ascidians, Bryozoa, sponges, and polychaetes."Photo: Rock overturned in Reef Flat Zone: brittle stars move quickly for cover. Sea urchin is Echinometra lacunterPhoto: There are some large mounds of Diploria clivosa in the Reef Flat Zone, even only 10 m from the beach Mean Low Water line - so their occurrence this close to shore is not consistent with the description of Lewis (1960).Photo: Siderastera radians (or perhaps S. siderea) in the Reef Flat Zone, a larger specimen than those cited by Lewis (1960) for this zone.Photo: Diploria clivosa and Palythoa in the Diploria-Palythoa Zone.

From Lewis (1960):

"Diploria-Palythoa Zone
This zone is characterized by the extensive colonization of two forms, the coral Diploria clivosa and the colonial zooanthid Palythoa mammillosa, and by the increased irregularity of the bottom topography. Low mounds of reef rock and sharp projections appear at the outer edge of the reef flat zone. The seaward limit of the Diploria-Polythoa zone is more irregular and roughened than the landward limit, and the zone is evidently one in which the rock surface is being eroded and flattened.

"The zone varies in width from 5 to 20 meters and is, on an average, about 10 meters wide. At its outer limit it is covered by about 2 feet of water at mean low tide. There are many potholes a few feet deep and winding rubblefilled channels which continue outwards into the seaward edge of the reef. The surface of the zone is slightly higher than the reef flat.

"Diploria clivosa is the most successful coral occurring in this zone. It forms low encrustations 1 or 2 f t wide up to 6 f t in diameter. Towards the outer edge of the zone where potholes and other depressions occur, the rock surface is colonized by half a dozen other corals. Porites porites occurs in stunted colonies, and there are flat or rounded encrustations of Porites astreoides. There are also rounded boulders of Diploria strigosa and scattered colonies of Favia fragum and Montastrea annuhris. On the sides of the potholes, small irregularly rounded colonies of Agaricia agaricites are encrusted. The colonial zooanthid, Palythoa mammillosa is very abundant in this zone. Wide sheets, several meters in diameter, are formed or it occurs as small closely adjoining rounded colonies (Fig. 3).

"The hydroid Millepora alcicornis is often abundant on the rock surface. The colonies are short, stout, and encrusting, or form short blade-like structures. The ubiquitous sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, is abundant in holes and crevices. The large anemone, Stoichadis helianthus, is abundant on some reefs and may form widespread sheets several meters across. These sheets can exclude the settlement of all other organisms. An encrusting alcyonarian, Erythropodium caribaeorum, is often common on the sides of the valleys at the outer edge of the zone.

"On all reefs, where the surface is bare of other encrusting forms, the rock is covered by a layer of coralline algae, and small branching clusters of a purple coralline algae are common in crevices."Photo: Zooanthid, Palythoa caribaeorum, very common on these fringing reefs.Photo: Stinging corals (Millepora spp) are prominent as we approach the reef crest zone.Photo: Blue Tang in the Reef Crest Zone

Lewis (1960):

"The Reef Crest Zone

The reef crest is a region of prolific coral growth and, in terms of development and succession of corals, it is the climax zone of the living reef. The width of the zone varies from 20 to 100 meters. Its seaward limit is defined as the point at which the profile of the reef begins to slope downwards towards Reef Crest Zone The reef crest is a region of prolific coral growth and, in terms of development and succession of corals, it is the climax zone of the living reef. The width of the zone varies from 20 to 100 meters. Its seaward limit is defined as the point at which the profile of the reef begins to slope downwards towards the bottom. Between this point and the outer edge of the previous zone, the reef maintains a more or less horizontal surface 2 to 4 feet below water at mean low tide.

"The basic feature of this zone is a series of spurs or ridges which projec outwards towards the sea and alternate with irregular winding valleys. The height of these spurs from the bottom is 4 to 6 meters at the outer limit. This formation is similar to that described by Goreau (2) for the buttress zone of Jamaican reefs, and by Newell and Rigby (5) for Andros reefs in the Ballamas. The bottoms of the valleys are composed of sand towards the outer edge, and debris blocks or fragments at the inner edge where the valleys narrow and merge with the reef rock pavement or become choked with debris. The spurs, which lie perpendicular to the shore, vary from 3 to 7 meters in width and are irregular in outline. They are often bisected across their widths to form separate massive blocks. The sides of the spurs are perpendicular but are undercut at their bases. Towards the outer edge of the zone, the walls are composed chiefly of Monastrea annularis, which forms shinglelike plates, simple sheet-like faces, or lobular colonies (Figs. 4, 5, and 6). Siderastrea siderea occasionally replaces Montastrea as the chief component of the sides of the spurs. It does not, however, form vertical faces but rather Iarge rounded masses which bulge outwards from the walls into the valleys. From mid-zone to the inner edge of the reef crest, large portions of the walls have broken off due to the undercutting at the base, and here the waI1s are sloping and irregular. The walls in this part of the zone are encrusted. with a variety of other corals which are established after the breakoff of the walIs. 

"The surface of the zone is approximately horizontal but with deep holes and cavities and sharp projections. This horizontal surface is composed entirely of dead coral rock which has become secondarily encrusted with a number of different species of corals (Fig. 7). Pmzlcs porites and Porites astrecli'es are codominant species. The intensity of colonization increases towards the seaward edge where these ttvo species cover more than 75% of the rock surface.

"The fallowing species occur on the horizontal surface:
Porites porites .. Diploria clivosa
Porites asteroides .. Diploria strigosa
Mintastrea annularis .. Diploria labyrinthiformis
Montastrm cavernosa .. Favia fragum
Acropora palmata .. Siderastrea siderea

"On the walls of the spurs, except at the outer edge, the following species are found: Stephanocoenia michlinii .. Mycetophyllia lamarckana
Montastrea cavernosa .. Isphyllastrea rigida
Montastrea annularis.. Isophyllia multiflora
Agaricia agaricites.. Eusmilia fastigiata
Siderastrea siderea .. Colpophyllia natans
Porites astreoides

"On many of the reefs this zone is poorly developed. Montastrea annularis is often scarce and the spurs are loosely connected, low, and with sparse encrustations of other corals. Wide areas have an encrustation of pink coralline algae and scattered colonies of Porites porites, but appear otherwise devoid of life.

"Of the other invertebrates found in the reef crest zone, the hydroid Millepora alcicornis is the most common (Fig. 8). It forms clumps of blade-like structures on the surface and grows up to the water level of low water spring tides. Other common forms include the peculiar little anemone Hoplophoria coralligens. This species has two sets of tentacles, one lobate and the other lanceolate. It lives in narrow crevices all over the surface of the rock. The large anemone Stoichactis helianthus occurs on the walls of the spurs and on debris at the bottoms of the valleys, and two other species of anemones, Zooanthus pulchellus and Ricordea floridea, are common. The large polychaete Sabellastarte magniJica is common and occurs between the branches of Porites porites. The gastropod Coralliophila abbreviatum is often abundant on partly eroded heads of Montastrea annularis and appears to be one of the agents of surface destruction of this coral."Photo: Lobular colony of Montastrea annularis in Reef Crest  zone.Photo: Coral- Meandrina meandrites (tentative ID)Photo: Pillar coral as we move into the seaward slopePhoto: Square stinging coral, Millepora squarrosa in the Seaward SlopePhoto: Branching fire coral (Millepora alcicornis), seen on the seaward slope and deeper areasPhoto: Massive starlet coral (Siderastrea siderea) in seaward slopePhoto: Sea grapes, Caulerpa verticillata, in the Seaward SlopePhoto: Seaward Slope

This zone is characterized by a gradual slope of the reef surface from the crest to the bottom at a depth of 5 to 6 meters. At the outer limit, 30 to 150 meters beyond the reef crest, low ridges appear as outcrops 1 to 3 meters high from a sand or rubble bottom. Elsewhere the ridges may be continuous with the reef crest and extend seaward in a gentle slope to the bottom. Near the reef crest, separate massive boulders, 3 to 5 meters in height and 5 or 6 meters in diameter, appear. The ridges are separated by sand bottom (the seaward continuations of the valleys of the reef crest zone) or may be joined by low growths of massive corals. Valleys are less regular in this zone and they tend to divide and form large open patches of sand bottom. The dominant coral in this zone is Montastrea annularis. It is found not only on the sides of the larger blocks as flat sheets and shingles, but also upon the sides of the low ridges and on top as large clumps of lobular colonies (Fig. 13). Siderastrea siderea is also an important structural element of the sides of the crests.

At the inner limit of the seaward slope, the composition of the corals on the ridges is the same as that of the reef crest with several additions. There is a gradual progression outwards, however, to the outer edge where Porites porites and another branching form, Madracis asperula, become codominants (Fig. 9). At depths of 5 to 6 meters, pure or mixed stands of these two species cover the lower lying ridges.

The following species are common in the seaward slope zone:
Madracis asperula .. Colpophyllia amaranthus
M. decactis .. Montastrea annularis 
Porites porites .. Montastrea cavernosa 
P. astreoides .. Dendrogyra cylindrus
Agaricia agaricites .. Mussa angulosa
Siderastrea siderea .. Ezismilia fastigiata
Diploria strigosa . . Isophyllastrea rigida
Diploria labyrinthiformis .. Mycetophyllia lamarckana
Colpophyllia natans .. Isophyllia multiflora
:Photo: Seaward edge of the fringing reef, in the Seaward Slope Zone. 

From Lewis (1960):
"In Barbados, the first stage of reef growth takes place in the area of the reef front and the seaward edge of the reef slope. Widely scattered colonies
of M. annularis, S. siderea, and other massive corals are established on the sand and rubble bottom. By their continued growth and decay, thev increase the proportion of rubble and hard rock on the bottom and patches of dead and living corals are thus developed. These patches, a few feet in height, develop in the outer edge of the seaward slope into long winding valleys, carved by
the shifting sand that moves in and out of the valleys of the reef crest zone. Settlement of P. porites and M. asperula takes place on these ridges at an early time and they contribute substantially to the basal framework of the
ridges.Photo: Area of vert healthy spurs with close to 100% cover by living coral, as shown in the next 5 photos.Photo: Healthy spur; close to its leading edgePhoto: Healthy spurPhoto: Healthy spurPhoto: Healthy spurPhoto: Healthy spurPhoto: Green turtle in Seaward Slope zonePhoto: Intense storm activity can wreak devastation on beds of finger coral, Porites porites.Photo: A beautiful "coral island", just seaward of the leading edge of a contiguous spurPhoto: Individual corals and gorgonians on sand a few meters seaward of the leading edge of the Seaward Slope. The larger corals are Montasrea annularis, the smaller one at the base of the gorgonid is Porites asteroides.Photo: Reef Front, circa 25 ft depth Montastrea annularis is the dominant coral, as described by Lewis (1960): "Reef Front- As the forward edge of the seaward slope decreases in 1 height, the low
ridges disappear and are replaced by scattered patches of coral heads. A band of sand and rubble bottom, which is dotted with these patches, lies
along most of the Ieeward coast at depths of about: 9 to 10 meters. The density of the patches varies widelv from place to place.

"The dominant coral of this zone is again Montastrea annularis. It forms groups of lobular colonies and is the chief structural base lor the settlement of other species of corals. The clumps reach x height of about 4 feet and vary from 2 to 8 feet in diameter."Photo: Coral bottom in the Reef Front dominated by Montastrea annularis. 

Reef Front (Lewis, 1960)

"As the forward edge of the seaward slope decreases in height, the low ridges disappear and are replaced by scattered patches of coral heads. A band of sand and rubble bottom, which is dotted with these patches, lies along most of the Ieeward coast at depths of about O to 10 meters. The density of the patches varies widely from place to place.

"The dominant coral of this zone is again Montastrea annularis. It forms groups of lobular colonies and is the chief structural base for the settlement of other species of corals. The clumps reach a height of about 4 feet and vary from 2 to 8 feet in diameter.

"Associated with Montastrea annualris are Diploria slrigosa and Diploria labyriniformis, Porites porites, Meandrina meandrites, M. braziliensis, Dichocoenia stokesii Siderasirea siderea, Agaricia agaricites and A. fragilis, and Porites asteroides. Siderastrea siderea, sometimes replaces Montastrea annualris as the primary colonizer. Dichocoenia stokesii and Meandrina meandrites are very successful in this zone although  they do not form large colouies. They do not occur  in the seaward slope zone and are indicator species for the reef front. M. meandrites is able to develop directly upon a sand or rubble bottom.

"A number of other invertebrates are characteristically found associated with the scattered clumps. The hydroid Millepora alcicornis  forms encrustations on many of the clumps, but it is low and stunted and never of the bladelike form. The echinoid Diadema antillarum is abundant and the anemones Aiptasia annulata and Condylactis gigamtea are found in nearly every group. Several species of gorgonids are common, and the sponges Desychalina cyathina, Verognia fistularis, and Spheciospongia vesperia. The crustaceans Stenorynchis seticornis and Stenopus hispidus are often closely associated with Diadema, and burrowing in the sand around the base o f the rocks is the synaptid holothurian , Euapta lappa. The large holothurian, Holothuria mexicana occurs on the surface of the sand."Photo: Up closePhoto: My heartbeat increased quite a bit when I spotted the coral at the bottom left  in the Reef Front Zone. It is Acropora cervicornis. Lewis (1960) cites it as a member of the Deep Water Communities at 10-30 m; this site was about 30 ft depth. I remember dense beds of this species just at the limit of my snorkelling depth when I was a student at the Bellairs Institute  between 1966 and 1969, and I was kind of looking our for remnants of these old colonies - there was a massive die-off of Acropora species in the early 1980s due to disease.Photo: More Acropora cervicornis. Thirty patches were counted within an area of approximately 35 m radius.  Only the larger ones , circa 3-4 m wide, had older dead coral, so these are recently established and a very positive feature. Heads of Montastrea annularis are visible, as are the many tips of Madracis, presumably M. asperula.

Deep Water Commuinities (Lewis, 1960)

 "The bottom commurlities of corals from depths of 10 meters outwards to the limit of the investigations at about: 30 meters is an extremely rich one. There are not only estensive mixed stands of coraIs, but there is a great diversity of species of corals and other invertebrates. Two types of communities are present ; pure stands of Madracis asperula (mixed with Porites porites at shallower depths), and mixed stands of nearly two dozen coral species.

"Madracis asperula is normally a deep water species (J.W. We!Is, personal communication) and is a slender branching form. It has been dredged from depths of 50 to 100 fathoms locally on several occasions. The shallow water form on the Barbados reefs is, however, a stout-branched form. The branches grow upright and are close together. The polyps are extended during the daytime and the surface of living tissue extends for about 1 inch downwards from the tip of the branch. Below the growing area, the branches are covered with coralline algae and sponges which bind the dead branches together. In deeper water this base of sponge-bound branches reaches thicknesses of 2 or 3 ft.

"Extensive beds of Madracis asperula occur as almost pure stands from depths of about 10 meters (Fig. 10). The closely packed branches form a complete covering, interrupted by patches of other corals or Madracis rubble to depths of at least 30 meters.

"The interstices between dead branches support a rich invertebrate fauna. The ophiuran, Ophiothrix suensonii, is abundant on the surface of the coral or between the ends of the branches. Several other species of ophiurans occur deeper within the crevices. Two starfish, Ophidiaster guildingii and Linckia guildingii, are common, and there is a small synaptid holothurian. There is an abundant microfauna including gastropods, pelecypods, small crabs, annelids, amphipods, isopods, and alpheid shrimp. The unbranched gorgonid, Briarum asbestinum is a characteristic feature of the Madracis beds as is the large yellow tubular sponge, Verongia fistularis. Several species of comatulid crinoids are also common.

"Alternating with the Madracis beds are stands of mixed corals. In these stands are found more than half the species of corals occurring in Barbados. A list of the species and their relative abundance in the community is shown below

"A=Abundant, C=Common, R=Rare

"Montastrea annuluris A
M.cavernosa A
Siderastrea siderea A
Diploria strigosa C
D. labyrinthiformis C
Agaricia agarcites C
A. nobilis C
A. fragilus R
Acropora cervicornis A
Mussa angulosa C
Eusmilia fastigiata C
Porites porites A
P.  astreoides C
P. furcata A
Madracis asperula A
M. decactis C
Colpophyllia natans C
C. amaranthus C
Mycetophyllia lamarckana C
Isophyllastrea rigida C
Dichocoenia stokesii R
Meandria meandrites C
Favia fragum C
Dendrogyra cylindrus R

"This mixed community alternates with beds of Madracis asperula. The community never achieves substantial height, but forms rather a low cover over the bottom. Rounded heads of M. annularis reach a height of 1 or 2 ft, while A. cervicornis reaches 3 or 4 ft.

"In addition to the variety of species present, a striking feature of this community is the intensity of the colonization. The bottom at deeper levels is almost completely covered by living coral. Massive and encrusting species community is the intensity of the colonization. The bottom at deeper levels is almost completely covered by living coral. Massive and encrusting species such as Montastrea, Siderastrea, and Colpophyllia grow on the substrate while Porites and Acropora grow up from crevices and form a branching network above the massive species (Figs. 11 and 12).

"The other invertebrate fauna of this mixed community is also rich and varied. Perhaps the most striking animals of the community are the ophiuroids. These occur on almost foothold, clinging to sponges and gorgonids and festooned on the branches of the corals. The glassy spined Ophiothrix suensonii is the most common, but several other species occur in the crevices at the base of the corals. The unbranched gorgonid, Briarium asbestinum, is very common as are several branching forms. The anemones Aiptasia annulata and Condylactis gigantea are common. A simple unbranched antipatharian occurs at deeper levels. Millepora alcicornis is abundant and forms delicately branching structures as well as knotted encrustations on the branches of dead corals. Several species of comatulid crinoids of the genus Nemaster are common."Photo: A wreck deliberately placed in the reef front zone in 1986, now supports a colourful variety of corals.Photo: Youngster snorkeling over the wreckPhoto: Tour operators throw a bit of food in the water creating a fish frenzy over the wreck, mostly Bermuda chub and sargeant majors. Even without food, they follow snorkellers, excpecting food of course. It feels like being in an aquarium!Photo: These boulders of the artifical breakwaters create another habitat type, hosting a variety of fishes which can hide from predators in the crevices. Schools of Blue Tang are especially common.Photo: Here, Tripneustes venticosus can be seen on boulders of artificial breakwater. This species, once very abundant, is now endangered in Barbados.  I also saw several Diadema there, otherwise very rare (and once abundant).Photo: Diadema antillarum on boulder.Photo: Lytechinus variegatus on boulderPhoto: Unidentified cnidarian on boulderPhoto: The ensuing photos show more of the fish, gorgonids and sponges of this reef complex.Photo: Brown Chromis: AbundantPhoto: Bluehead Wrasse: AbundantPhoto: Juvenile Blue Tang & Bluehead WrassePhoto: Sargeant Major: AbundantPhoto: Smallmouth Grunt: AbundantPhoto: Smallmouth GruntPhoto: Juvenile Bluehead WrassePhoto: Queen Parrotfish, Drab male phasePhoto: Bermuda Chub and Sargeant Majors over the wreck. Tour boats throw bread in the water to attract them for snorkellers.Photo: Ballyhoo, Hemiramphus brasiliensis. A school of these fish followed me around for more than an hour.  I think they were looking for a handout!Photo: Bermuda ChubPhoto: Possibly small Yellowtail Snapper. FewPhoto: Stoplight Parrrotfish: CommonPhoto: Harlequin Bass: CommonPhoto: Trumpetfish: Common. They seem to acquire the blue snout from swimming with Blue Tang.Photo: Sharp-tail Snake-Eel: Few sighted but probably common.Photo: Stingray, possibly a Southern Stingray; sited over several days over sandy (beach) area.Photo: Barracuda - sighted in the swimming area!Photo: Scrawled Filefish#1 This one and those in the next two photos were together, but with quite different coloration. (They change colours with their surroundings.) Common.Photo: Scrawled Filefish#2Photo: Scrawled Filefish#3Photo: White Spotted FilefishPhoto: White Spotted FilefishPhoto: Orange-spotted Fileflsh. Common.Photo: Trumpetfish on the seaward slopePhoto: Banded Butterfly Fish. Usually in pairs. CommonPhoto: Spanish Hogfish. CommonPhoto: Sand Diver - Common.Photo: "Sprat", popular as bait fish. Often seen as schools swimming through the area, especially near shore.Photo: Smallmouth grunt by Montastraea annularisPhoto: Spanish Hogfish.Photo: Web Burfish. Common.Photo: A Gorgonian or "soft coral".Photo: GorgonianPhoto: Sea plume, a gorgonianPhoto: GorgonianPhoto: GorgonianPhoto: A seafan gorgonianPhoto: Sponge and gorgonianPhoto: GorgonianPhoto: Verognia sp. (Sponge).Photo: Sponge, Ircinia strobilinaPhoto: spongePhoto: spongePhoto: spongePhoto: spongePhoto: spongePhoto: Vase SpongePhoto: Sponge.  It was pushing my snorkelling limits to get this one at approximately 10 m depth.Photo: Salps in the plankton

These were big enough to be seen with the naked eye. They clouded the water for many days during my time in Barbados in 2015  (mostly Feb and March), perhaps related in some way to the Sargassum weed that blanketed the island. The water was very noticeably clearer in March of 2016 when the Sargassum had largely dissipated.

I am happy to report that the very healthy sections of the reef I observed in 2015 remained healthy in 2016. (I spent most of March, 2016 in the area.)  Likewise,  the diversity and abundance  of fishes and other life I had observed in 2015 continued in 2016.

One change in 2016: immediately onshore, construction of the first of five large luxury villas that are being developed along this section of coast was well underway. The developers appear to be taking appropriate precautions not to disturb the beach and beyond physically. I have written them to highlight the special nature of the the reef and and to encourage them to dispose of effluents in a way that avoids negative impacts on the reef.  I am particularly concerned about disposal of swimming pool water containing algicides and chlorine. So far (15 days) no reply, but I will follow up, also with government people.