Wageningen Marine Research also conducts research relating to coast and climate in the Caribbean Netherlands. Coral researcher Erik Meesters elaborates on various ongoing projects.
The protection of this rich nature is a task of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The government has therefore asked research institutes such as Wageningen Marine Research to map out these ecosystems – and create measures to protect them. “We mainly conduct research within 100 meters of the coastline”, says Meesters. “This is where you’ll find the ecosystems that are most important to the islanders for tourism and fishing. But we also study the Saba Bank, a deeper reef area that measures 60 by 40 kilometers, well off the coast of Saba. The Saba Bank is the largest protected nature reserve in the Netherlands.”
The research spans a wide range of efforts, as Meesters explains. Monitoring plays an important role. “For example, we investigate how coral reefs change over time”, he says, “as well as the water quality, transparency and the amount of chlorophyll in the water: a measure of phytoplankton growth that increases under conditions with higher nutrient concentrations. We also use new environmental DNA techniques to investigate which animal and plant species occur at certain locations.”