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January 14, 2014


P. Mulligan

Please send someone to cover the presentation of Dr. Tom Goreau at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference. He will be presenting on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:30. I have attached a copy of his abstract and the full schedule can be found at http://www.friendsoftheenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ASAC-2014-schedule1.pdf.

Abaco Science Alliance Conference

January 16th – 18th, 2014

Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance, Cambridge MA

James Cervino, PhD, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole MA

Troy Albury, Save Guana Cay Reef, Guana Cay, Abaco



Hundreds of golf courses around the world overlooking coral reefs have environmental

impact assessments claiming no harm will happen to coral reefs from fertilizer nutrient

runoff into the sea. Guana Cay, Abaco is the only place where impacts of golf courses

on coral reef health have been studied both before and after golf course construction.

After the golf course was established harmful algae blooms and coral disease outbreaks

began on nearby coral reefs. There had been no sign of them before the golf course was

established. They continue to be persistent since, with worst impacts in the warm

season. We analyzed in duplicate nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon contents of 80

samples of the most abundant algae species growing at 10 sampling locations near the

golf course, unpopulated coastal areas around Guana Cay remote from the golf course,

areas near populated centers, and coral reefs near and far from Guana Cay. Nitrogen

and carbon and their isotopes were analyzed by mass spectroscopy, and phosphorus by

absorption spectrophotometry. Samples were collected in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Comparison of the mean and standard deviations of the algae data from different sites

showed that algae blooms near the golf course have the highest nitrogen content at all

times, indicating that excess nitrogen from land is entering near-shore waters via

groundwater discharge from fertilized golf course greens. Isotopic analysis of nitrogen in

algae near the golf course shows a strong sewage nitrogen origin. This seems to result

from use of slow-release organic nitrogen fertilizer, made from recycled sewage. In

contrast, algae nitrogen near populated areas is overwhelmingly natural in origin, with

little sewage contamination. Algae phosphorus levels are highest in the main town

harbour. Their main source may be detergent runoff via drains. It appears that little golf

course phosphorus is running off to the sea. High groundwater nitrogen inputs to the sea

are especially common in limestone areas like the Bahamas. Since algae have excess

nitrogen available, their growth is limited by lack of phosphorus, so very small additional

phosphorus inputs could trigger massive harmful algae blooms that overgrow and kill

corals. Nutrient inputs from land need to be reduced to protect coral reefs.

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