Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, Walter Adey and many of this students carried out extensive field research on coral reefs across the length and breadth of the Caribbean. The sailing trimaran "Corallina" was built in Adey's backyard especially for this work, to support SCUBA, underwater photography and mapping. Several small aircraft were also used to produce aerial baseline maps, and coral reefs across the region were mapped, some in great detail. One of Adey's students, Dr. Randolph Burke, extended this research through the 1990s, and now this very large data set provides a baseline to test the extent and magnitude of coral reef degradation. Coral reef ecosystems are the "canaries" for our global ecosystems and can provide key information to understand the "collapse" predicted by many scientists.
Fig. A (click to enlarge)
Structure and time/height of St. Croix reef complex development, with rising sea level, during the past 10,000 years. Time is determined by C14 analysis of corals from numerous core drillings.
Fig. B (click to enlarge)
Detailed map of a small portion of a coral reef/coralline algal ridge complex on St. Croix. Many coral reef areas in the eastern Caribbean were mapped in great detail during the 1970s, and this provides the ability to field check for changes and to develop quantitative indexes of change.
Drs. Adey and Burke core drilling a coralline-built algal ridge on the island of Guadeloupe to determine the age and structure of this massive reef system.
Walter Adey core-drilling underwater on a shelf edge coral reef on the island of St. Croix., part of an underwater drilling project with Dr. Ian MacIntyre, also at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. This is the submerged reef on the right hand side of Fig. a. The shallow-water, fast-growing Acropora palmata built the core of this now deep water reef, as rising sea level covered it 10,000 years ago.
Fig. E (click to enlarge)
Distribution of coral reefs in the Caribbean. The orange color represents thick coral reef structures mostly built by acroporid corals. The red represents coralline-built algal ridges and the blue shows primarily coral communities without massive structure. These patterns of development were controlled by wave exposure and sea-level rise relative to structural patterns on the geological basement.