The Role of Macroalgal Species as Bio-indicators of Water Quality
in Bermudian Karstic Cave Pools
Bermuda consists of a series of mid-ocean islands
located 1000 km (600 miles) off the eastern coast of the United States.
Geologically, the islands are composed of highly cavernous limestone overlying a
volcanic seamount. Due to this foundation,
This study will determine if the various algal species present in inland pools at the entrance to many Bermuda caves can serve as bio-indicators for groundwater quality. Initially floral surveys of submerged and intertidal algae will be conducted at eleven different sites to determine the diversity present. More detailed experiments will be carried out on one to two species of algae at six of the sites. These experiments will measure productivity and respiration rates as well as determine the effects of nutrient enrichment on growth. Algae are autotrophic organisms at the bottom of the trophic food web. They rely directly on nutrients in their environment for growth and survival. Due to this relationship, they are very sensitive to pollution and nutrient enrichment and show rapid and quantifiable morphological changes.
Entrance cave pools with lower water quality and higher nutrient loading exhibit different algal distributions and show higher primary productivity and growth characteristics than cave pools with high water quality and less or no nutrient loading relative to background levels. By determining if there is a correlation between the presence and distribution of different algal species in the cave pools and the water quality, environmental health in the various inland cave pools and in the groundwater can be monitored.
This research will add to the knowledge of karst ecosystems and their interconnections. All acquired data will be provided to the Bermuda Biodiversity Project (BBP) of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo. This research is intended for use in conservation efforts to preserve and protect the cave systems and the flora and fauna that inhabit this unique environment.