Abstract

Costa Rica is considered one of the 20 most biodiverse countries in the world, which includes it´s well known reefs ecosystems. Specifically, the South Pacific region, the Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA), holds one of the richest reefs of the country. Even though many of these reefs have been studied since the 1980´s, most of them had focused mainly on coral cover condition. Therefore, the present research aims to complete and update an evaluation of the main biological components of ACOSA´s reefs ecosystems, using a standard methodology. Between 2013 and 2014, five localities were visited: Dominicalito, Marino Ballena National Park, Caño Island Biological Reserve, Osa Peninsula and Golfo Dulce, on which 27 sites were evaluated. Transects at two depths in each site were done to estimate substrate cover, reef rugosity, macroinvertebrates diversity and density, and reef fishes composition and biomass. Results indicate that ACOSA´s reef are moderately complex and on most of them the substrate is dominated by turf (62.7%) and live coral cover is moderate (16.5%). Substrate cover was significantly different between localities, which can be attributed to adverse environmental conditions for reef development (e.g. sedimentation, pollution). However, reefs in Golfo Dulce and Caño Island BR showed a significant coral cover recovery since last studied. Of 35 taxa of macroinvertebrates identified, 58% had low abundance or were observed occasionally. Golfo Dulce presented the highest diversity and density of macroinvertebrates and significant differences were observed between localities. On this group, this study is providing an information baseline of most sites analyzed. The echinoids Diadema mexicanum and Eucidaris thouarsii were the most abundant and the conch (Lobatus galeatus) was reported for many of the sites. Of the 90 species of reef fishes documented, ten were common and with the highest densities. There were no significant differences in the diversity and richness of the reef fishes between localities, but fishes’ biomass and composition of fish community were different between sites. Caño Island´s sites were the most diverse of ACOSA, and presented the highest biomass and trophic levels of the region. Golfo Dulce´s reef fish composition differs from the other localities. According to the results, ACOSA´s reef ecosystems have a high biodiversity. The ecosystems conditions observed indicate that more conservation efforts, sustainable use and effective management of land and marine resources should be implemented. Ecological monitoring will provide the information about trends and the relationship between reef ecosystems state and environmental conditions.

 
Keywords: Coral community, reef, biomass, diversity, abundance, Eastern Tropical Pacific.