Reef Herbivore Research

Principal Investigator: Dr Dayne Buddo


The degradation of Jamaican reefs has been intensified following the decline of the long-spined black sea urchin in 1983 due to an unknown disease. With 93% of the population killed, a “phase shift” occurred where coral reefs moved from a coral dominated state to an algal dominated state.

The urchin is considered a keystone grazer because of the important role it plays in regulating the growth of algae on coral reef systems. Declines in urchin populations have seen large increases in algal growth. We hope that by transplanting urchins back on to Portland’s reefs, we can restore the natural equilibrium and help reduce the threat of algae to coral systems. The urchins could essentially help to create a foundation for the establishment of new corals and play a pivotal role in the improved health of Caribbean coral reefs.

This project will focus on assessing the effects of physical and ecological factors on the recovery of this keystone herbivore in Portland and Jamaica.