What are the possible causes of cataracts?

Please don’t join the league of people that live all their life in assumption. One can assume that only adults of old age are prone to have cataracts. I want to assure you that this write-up will captivate your heart. This article aims at revealing the causes of cataracts. Also, this write-up will educate and inform you about all the possible causes of cataracts. This will help to reduce the risk of getting a cataract. 

Recently, research shows that the rate at which cataract surgery is increasing these days is beyond expression. So, I took it up as my responsibility to reveal the causes of this eye problem. I firmly believe that if people are exposed to the causes of cataracts, they will earnestly fight in seeking a way to avoid it. Therefore, I urge you to pay attention to what will be revealed here. It would be nice to talk about cataracts for better understanding and background knowledge. 

Cataracts occur when there’s a solid or cloudy zone in the eye’s lens. This eye problem regularly begins when the protein in the eye generates clumps that prevent the lens from sending or transporting clear images to the retina. Don’t forget that the work of the retina is to change the light that comes via the lens into signals. Also, the retina leads signals to the optic nerve before the brain receives them. One fearful thing about cataract is that it occurs bit by bit and if one joke with it, it could result in total blindness. Therefore, to avoid spending your income on cataract surgery, you need to know its causes and the necessary steps you need to take. Click here to learn what are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?

I said earlier that one needs to undergo cataract surgery to overcome this eye problem. Of course, not in all cases. If you know the causes and see some cataract symptoms, and you have it in mind to rise to do the needful, you might only need a corrective measure and not necessarily go through cataract surgery. If you know the symptoms and you could identify them at an early stage. But once you neglect the aspect of taking the necessary steps, there’s no other way to restore your vision except through cataract surgery. 

Causes of cataract

  1. Eye injury: If you have an injury in your eye, the damage can later lead to a cataract if care is not taken. Let me give you an instance. If someone hits your eyes with a stone, your lens might be affected. And once your lens is faulty, your eye doctor may confirm that you have a cataract. Let me be honest with you. Once you are examined and your eye doctor affirms that the eye injury has affected your lens, he tells you that you have a cataract, then he may probably instruct you to go through cataract surgery. That is why you need to protect your eyes from being injured. Research shows that close to 50% of people undergoing cataract surgery in Sydney contract cataracts due to an eye injury. It is called a traumatic cataract. Also, if one is not careful, one might get a cataract from chemicals or particles that can injure the lens. If you are working in a factory where particles flow in the air, you probably need to use an eye shield to protect your eyes. The flow of particles might affect your eyes, and you may have cataracts like that. 
What are the possible causes of cataracts?
  1. Radiation: One’s vision might be affected if one’s eye is exposed to the rays of light from the sun or any other lightning materials such as a computer system. That is why it is essential for contractors, freelancers, and other occupations that can’t do without placing their eyes on lights. Some people don’t know why they are in the theatre room for cataract surgery. The reason is that they refuse to protect their eyes from radiation. Furthermore, some people contract cataracts due to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. If you spend too much time in the sun, you can get a cataract. So, people like that don’t need to be scared if their eye doctor instructs them to go through cataract surgery. That’s the only way to restore their vision to its original state. 
  1. Congenital causes: There’s a tendency for a man to be born with a cataract. Honestly, countless people are battling cataracts right from their formative stage. This can occur during pregnancy. A child is formed in the mother’s womb, and he can inherit traits, illnesses, and some other things from the mother. Although contacting cataracts from a mother depends on how strong the mother’s gene is. If the mother has a strong gene and she has a cataract, there’s a high tendency that the baby can also contact or inherit a cataract. I have seen cases like that several times without numbers. Have you seen a girl child of age two using glasses? You might be wondering, how come? One might even be asking oneself what the hell is going on. A girl of two years, with glasses? Such a girl might be struggling with cataracts right from her mother’s womb. 
  1. Cortical cataract:  When a shape occurs outside the edge of your lens, you have a cortical cataract. Remember, the shape-outside one’s lens is called the cortex. The moment you notice something like triangles pointing toward the center of your lens, you need to visit an eye doctor for a necessary checkup. What cortical does is scatter light as they grow. Then, once cortical scatters the light, glare sets in. That is why glare is the only symptom of this cataract. The ray of light from other vehicles can block your sight at night, and you may find it hard to drive at night. Once you see this symptom, you need to see your doctor. Your surgeon will carry out some tests on you, and the result might be that you need to undergo cataract surgery.

Closing thought

Dear reader, please feel free to drop your question regarding this topic in the comment box. With the above-listed points, no one should give you a fallacy about the causes of cataracts. 

What are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is not the only means of treating cataracts. There are other means of solving or treating cataracts. As good as it may sound to the ear that cataract surgery is the best way to remove the cataract, could you believe it also has its limitations.

But before we proceed, we need to have a piece of background knowledge about what is cataract surgery

 What is a cataract? 

There’s no doubt about the fact that cataract is an eye disease. For over five centuries now, this eye problem has stylishly made its way to every nation. There’s no country in the world without countless patients battling cataracts. In the US, it was recorded that cataract is a familiar eye problem people are fighting. Also, the Australians can talk about what they are facing and how they’ve been visiting eye clinics. What am I saying in essence? A cataract is not a strange eye problem to the world. Learn more about types of cataracts.

What are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?

If you have seen some symptoms like the glare of light, trouble seeing at night, astigmatism, inability to read, etc., you need to consult your doctor for a proper checkup. You might be suffering from a cataract. Cataracts occur when there’s a solid or cloudy zone in the eye’s lens. This eye problem regularly begins when the protein in the eye generates clumps that prevent the lens from sending or transporting clear images to the retina. Don’t forget that the work of the retina is to change the light that comes via the lens into signals. Also, the retina leads signals to the optic nerve before the brain receives them. One fearful thing about cataract is that it occurs bit by bit and if one joke with it, it could result in total blindness. So, if you’ve been diagnosed with a cataract, there are different means of restoring your vision. Some of them are; cataract surgery, medications, and lots more. 

However, people prefer to go through cataract surgery. They see it as the safest and the easiest way of removing cataracts. Of course, they might be right. But that does not negate that cataract surgery has its shortcomings. Therefore, this article is about exposing the disadvantages of undergoing cataract surgery. But before we explain that, let us briefly talk about the meaning of cataract surgery.

What are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is eradicating the affected natural lens and replacing it with an artificial one. This surgery is done or carried out by a professional ophthalmologist. I can boldly tell you that everyone that has gone through this process can say something good about it. It is not as scary as it sounds to the ears. In some parts of the world, people get scared whenever they hear “surgery.” You don’t need any flattering words before you believe that the only way to restore one’s vision perfectly is by undergoing cataract surgery. It is the easiest and the safest method of getting one’s eye back to work. Don’t be deceived. People can tell you that all you need is eyeglasses. I am not saying eyeglasses cannot work. But I know that eyeglasses cannot perfectly correct your lens as undergoing this surgery would do.

Disadvantages of cataract surgery

What are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?
  1. Cost: The cost of this surgery is one of its shortcomings. This is one of the reasons why some people prefer to use other means of correcting the natural lens other than going through this surgery. Cataract surgery is the most expensive surgery that pertains to eye treatment. People of low class cannot boldly visit an eye clinic to do this surgery. In India, cataract increases daily. The poverty rate did not allow people to go for this surgery in India. There are other countries like that whose citizens are also suffering from cataracts. The reason is that some of them couldn’t afford to pay the ophthalmologist. One strange thing about the cost of this surgery is that the cost kept on increasing every year. Also, there’s no uniform price for the cost of this surgery. A private eye clinic can place any amount they want on cataract surgery.
  1. Complications in surgery: The operation includes technicality. With that, the risk of complications is high. In fact, we have some people with the worst cases after doing this surgery. Anything can happen during this process. Some parts of the artificial lens that would replace the natural lens can be left inside for several reasons. This surgery can lead to another surgery if care is not taken. A post-operative itching DFD can occur after the surgery. Also, inflammation in the cornea is another likely complication that can arise after the surgery. 
  1. Dislocation of the retina: During the procedure, there’s a high tendency that the surgeon can dislodge the retina. Although this occurrence is rare, we heard it happening. And if there’s dislodgement of the retina, the eye can completely get damaged. 
  1. Infections: Infection is an everyday talk among those that have undergone cataract surgery. So, if this surgery is not done by a professional, people are prone to get infected. If the instrument used are not properly disinfected, the possibility of getting an eye infection is high. Also, there can be incomplete sterilization of the equipment that will be used. And once this occurs, the eye can do blind totally. 
What are the shortcomings of cataract surgery?

What is the side effect of cataract surgery?

If you have dryness in your eye before this surgery, it will surely increase after the surgery. Honestly, there can be slight dryness in the eye before the surgery. The doctor needs to treat it by instructing you to get some eye drops. And one must use that eye drop for two months. 

On a final note

Dear reader, I hope you’ve seen something different and unique. The link to this page is what you need to share with family and friends. This article is instructive, informative, and educative. It comprises all the shortcomings of cataract eye surgery. Finally, please feel free to drop either a question or contribution in the comment box. We will surely attend to it. 

What are the types of cataracts?

There are different types of cataracts. You might be wondering why you need to know the types of cataracts. Apart from the fact that knowing the types of cataracts is educative, informative, and instructive, it also helps one to understand the possible causes of cataracts that one is battling with. For instance, do you know some families can’t live up to forty years without having an issue with their eyes? Of course, we have countless of them. So, that’s a congenital cataract. So, once you notice that as a child you are feeling the way your mother or your father felt a few years back and they undergo cataract surgery, then you should know the next step to take. I am trying to show you the essence of knowing the types of cataracts.

What are the types of cataracts?

But before we move further to the details, it would be nice to start this write-up with the meaning of cataracts. Now, what is a cataract? Cataracts occur when there’s a solid or cloudy area in the eye’s lens. This eye problem usually begins when the protein in the eye creates clumps that prevent the lens from sending or transferring clear images to the retina. Don’t forget that the work of the retina is to convert the light that comes via the lens into signals. Also, the retina sends signals to the optic nerve before the brain receives them. One thing about cataract is that it occurs gradually and if one joke with it, it could result in total blindness. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary spending on cataract surgery, you need to know its symptoms and the necessary steps you need to take.

To overcome a cataract, one needs to undergo cataract surgery. Of course, not in all cases. If you see some cataract symptoms, and you have it in mind to rise to do the needful, you might only need a corrective measure and not necessarily undergo cataract surgery. That is if you know the symptoms and you could identify them at an early stage. But once you neglect the aspect of taking the necessary steps, there’s no other way to restore your vision except through cataract surgery.

Types of cataracts 

  1. Congenital cataract
  2. Nuclear cataract
  3. Cortical cataract
  4. Traumatic cataract
What are the types of cataracts?
  • Congenital cataract: From the word “congenital,” you should know what this type of cataract entails. It is a type of cataract that is hereditary. Of course, one may be born with a cataract. It depends on the strength of the genes. Countless people underwent cataract surgery in Sydney, and the root cause is that they inherited it from their parents. Congenital cataracts could occur when one is still a child. If the mother of a child is fighting cataracts, there’s a tendency that the traces of cataracts will show up in the child. Of course, I don’t want you to misquote me. It’s not in all cases. However, the child might not undergo cataract surgery at his tender age, but with time, as the cataract grows bigger in him, he will have to do cataract surgery later. Children at their formative stage can take some parts from their parents to form who they are. This is common during pregnancy. Therefore, as a child could easily pick some behavior in the mother, he could also choose a cataract. 
  • Nuclear cataract: The only way to restore one’s vision if one suffers from this cataract is to undergo cataract surgery. It is otherwise known as a sclerotic nuclear cataract. When there’s a form in the middle of one’s lens, one suffers from a nuclear cataract. Furthermore, sclerotic nuclear cataract is common among older adults. Some of them assumed that you don’t need to go for cataract surgery if you have trouble or concern in your vision at an old age. But the fact remains that not all adults in their old age have an issue with their sight. One thing about these symptoms is that it also starts gradually. And if it is left uncared for, it becomes more complex, and one must undergo cataract surgery to restore one’s vision. What are the symptoms of nuclear cataracts? If you have this type of cataract, you might find it hard to see tiny things, colors get less wealthy, and inability to read.
  • Cortical cataract: When a shape occurs outside the edge of your lens, you have a cortical cataract. Remember, the shape-outside one’s lens is called the cortex. The moment you notice something like triangles pointing toward the center of your lens, you need to visit an eye doctor for a necessary checkup. What cortical does is scatter light as they grow. Then, once cortical scatters the light, glare sets in. That is why glare is the only symptom of this cataract. The ray of light from other vehicles can block your sight at night, and you may find it hard to drive at night. Once you see this symptom, you need to see your doctor. Your surgeon will carry out some tests on you, and the result might be that you need to undergo cataract surgery. 
  • Traumatic cataracts: Traumatic cataract occurs due to injury in the eye. If your eyes are close to some chemicals or particles, you can get this type of cataract. Another way of getting this cataract is if a stone or hard materials hit you. One thing about this type of cataract is that it might not show after two years. Therefore, I implore you to stay safe and protect your eyes from being injured. Once a traumatic cataract is detected, the only way to come out of it is by undergoing perfect cataract surgery. Although, it depends on what your eye doctor prescribes to you. 

On a final note

This article is educative, instructive, and informative. It is expedient for you to know these types of cataracts. This write-up consists of four common types of cataracts. Finally, please feel free to drop your question regarding this topic in the comment box.  

Nutrient Pollution in Coral Reef Waters

Map of Curaçao

General introduction

Living nature can be divided into different areas with specific plants and animals. The group of organisms in a certain area and the way in which these organisms interact with each other is called an ecosystem. Examples of ecosystems are coral reefs, deserts, taigas, rain forests, and savannas. The outward boundaries of ecosystems are set by physical factors such as temperature, rain, and the geological shape of the land. Polar regions are different from the tropics in temperature, but within the tropical zone, there are wet and arid areas. The geological shape can mean plains or mountains, small islands or large continents, shallow or deep sea. Organisms are adapted to live under specific circumstances and the occurrence of such circumstances determines which animals and plants can be found where. These influences are called abiotic factors. Relations between the organisms determine the detailed composition of that ecosystem (e. g. predators eating prey, trees creating a place for birds to build a nest, corals and sponges competing for space on a reef flat, etc.). Such influences of organisms on each other are called biotic factors. The availability of nutrients depends on a combination of abiotic and biotic factors.

The term ‘nutrient’ in a broad and general sense means food. Organisms need nutrition or food to obtain the necessary energy and building materials to grow, maintain and reproduce. However, more commonly the term nutrients is used for the chemical elements nitrogen and phosphorus. With nutrient pollution or eutrophication we mean an increase in nitrogen (usually as ammonium or nitrate) and phosphorus (as phosphate) in a natural environment. Before I go into the details of eutrophication, let me first explain the role of the elements in an ecosystem.

Plants fix energy from sunlight into organic material in a process called photosynthesis. Plant-eating animals (herbivores) obtain the necessary energy to live by eating plants. Animal-eating animals (carnivores) eat herbivores or other carnivores. This way energy is transferred through the food chain from plants to herbivores to carnivores. It is important to realize that there is only one input in the system: plants fixing sunlight. All other organisms depend on the presence of plants for their energy. Energy is transferred through the ecosystem until it is lost.

Aside from fixing energy into organic material, a plant needs building materials to make itself: stem, leaves, roots, flowers; the whole thing. These materials are usually expressed as their chemical elements, e.g. carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), etc. In reality, these elements are bound in organic molecules. C, O, and H form the largest part of living or organic matter. Nitrogen is a necessary element in for example protein molecules and phosphate occurs in cell membranes. Also, both elements N and P are necessary parts of DNA. Other elements are needed in small amounts to form a body, such as iron and copper. In a whole living body, these materials are needed in certain amounts. Plants in the sea consist of C and N and P in a ratio of approximately 106:45:5. Plants need to obtain these different elements in different amounts from the environment. C is present in CO2, H is in water (H2O), N in NH4 (ammonium) or NO3 (nitrate) and P in PO4 (phosphate). O is present in almost all these molecules. The ratio in which these building materials are available is mostly not the same as the ratio in which they are needed. Of one of these elements, there will be less available relative to the others, which means that this element becomes limiting for growth. In the sea, there is of course water enough and H and O are never a problem. CO2 dissolves into the water from the atmosphere and is usually sufficiently present as well. The limiting nutrient is most commonly N or P (although there are areas where neither N nor P, but iron is limiting). Hence the common use of the term nutrient pollution for excess inputs of ammonium (NH4), nitrate (NO3), and phosphate (PO4).

Like energy, nutrients are transferred through the ecosystem as one organism eats another. There is, however, an important difference: nutrients are not used up but become released again. Animals that eat plants burn 80 – 90% of their food for energy and use only the rest for the growth of their body and reproduction. This means that they eat far more N and P than they need and the surplus has to be excreted. Also, every organism dies at some time and when bacteria break down the remains, nutrients become available again. The essential difference with energy is that nutrients are cycled through an ecosystem. Plants take up inorganic nutrients from their environment and fix them in organic material, animals eat plants and excrete organic nutrients, and bacteria convert these back to inorganic nutrients, which can be used by plants again. As long as none are lost, nutrients could in theory be recycled forever through an ecosystem. In reality, ecosystems are not closed and nutrients are imported and exported: animals move in or away, water currents bring or take away organisms and molecules, dead organisms disappear into deep water, etc. In long-living ecosystems the import and export of nutrients are usually balanced: as much comes as goes out.

One of the major effects of humans on their environment is that we change the nutrient balance by increasing the nutrients concentrations. We use fertilizers in agriculture, which is nothing else than nutrients for those plants we wish to grow. These plants cannot use all the nutrients we supply and much of the loading is lost to the environment. Sewage consists of nutrients in organic and if treated in a sewage plant, inorganic forms. These nutrients are generally discharged into our environment. At the same time, we often reduce the capacity of the nature around us to use these nutrients by removing the natural vegetation for agriculture or urban development. Humans eutrophy their environment and the larger and denser the population is, the stronger the nutrient pollution.

So, why is this a problem? We are basically giving plants and thereby all the animals in the ecosystem materials that they need, don’t we? The answer is that reality is not that simple. Yes, plants need nutrients, but only a limited amount. The problem is that increases in nutrients lead to changes in the ecosystem. Some plants are specialized to survive in an environment with low nutrient concentrations, while other plants dominate with high nutrient concentrations. When nutrient levels are increased the ecosystem shifts from low nutrient specialists to high nutrient specialists. Ultimately this leads to completely different ecosystems under long-term eutrophication. Generally, this leads to a reduction of the diversity within ecosystems and variation between ecosystems.

The coral reef ecosystem.

Coral reefs consist of many different organisms: macro-algae, stony corals, soft corals, sponges, ascidians, snails, mussels, crabs, lobsters, fish, etc. Macro-algae are plants such as seaweeds, coralline algae, small turf algae, etc. The other groups are basically animals, but there are a few important strangers: animals that have unicellular plants living in their skin. These algae are called zooxanthellae or in short zoom. These combinations (or symbionts) behave partly as plants and partly as animals. Most well-known are stony corals, but other examples are some soft corals, some sponges, giant clams, and the upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopeia). The zooxanthellae fix the energy of sunlight by photosynthesis and the animal catches food from the water column (small bacteria, algae, and animals). Because of the dependence on sunlight corals can only live in clear and shallow waters. The zoox gives energy to the coral (or another host) and the coral gives nutrients in return. By living together in a symbiosis both organisms do better than if they were living apart. The other animals without zooxanthellae make a living by catching food particles from the water column or by eating other reef organisms.

Stony corals make and shape the coral reef. They contribute most to reef-building by the limestone skeletons they make to grow. The collection of stony corals in a reef creates the three-dimensional structure of the reef. There are many gaps and crevices between and under coral colonies, which serve as hiding places for many other organisms to survive in a coral reef. Where corals disappear many other creatures such as lobsters and colorful fish are lost as well. Besides corals, crustose coralline algae also contribute to reef growth by calcification. At the same time that a coral reef is built by corals, it is also broken down again by bio-erosion. Parrotfish eat small algae growing on dead coral but in the process of eating grind the old coral skeleton to dust or sand. Boring sponges and mussels drill holes in coral skeletons. The balance of reef growth and destruction determines whether a reef as whole increases or decreases. This balance depends on how many of which organisms are present in a reef ecosystem.

Coral reefs occur typically in waters with low nutrient concentrations. Reef organisms are adapted to survive under these low nutrient concentrations. Corals and macro-algae can take up inorganic nutrients directly from the surrounding water although these occur in very low concentrations. Organic nutrients are gained in food collected from the water column. As the surrounding oceanic water flows over the reef many nutrients are subtracted from this water. Another, and possibly very important, input of nitrogen is the fixation of atmospheric N2 into amino acids. Nutrients are also lost to the overlying water column and taken away with the current. Nutrients are not contained cycle after cycle in the reef ecosystem, but rather taken up by the plants and animal-plant symbionts and lost again when excreted by higher trophic levels. Nutrients flow through the food chain and are converted from one form to another in the process. Aside from the classic food chain described above, bacteria are responsible for many transformations of nutrients. Bacteria can for example convert ammonium to nitrite to nitrate. All in all the reef ecosystem is an extensive, complex network of compartments that do different things with different nutrients.

Eutrophication effects in coral reefs.

Increases in nutrient concentrations have various effects on the coral reef ecosystem. The first set of problems occurs on the level of individual organisms. In corals the zoox—coral symbiosis becomes disturbed with high nutrient concentrations. When corals are kept in aquariums with high ammonium concentrations for a few weeks, the zoox multiplies strongly and coral growth stops. It is not known yet what exactly happens, but it is quite clear that the zoox use the energy from photosynthesis to grow themselves instead of giving it to the coral. Elevated nutrient concentrations are bad news for corals. On the level of primary producers (plants), the competition between corals and macro-algae is influenced by nutrient concentrations. Since the bottom surface area on a reef is limited (1 m2 is 1 m2) reef organisms have to compete for space. They all need a hard bottom to attach themselves to and cannot grow on top of each other. With low nutrient concentrations, corals are able to keep algae away and overgrow them. With high nutrient levels, algae get a competitive advantage and start to overgrow corals. As algae do not calcify, reef growth is reduced. An important factor influencing coral vs. macro-algae competition is fisheries. Many fish, such as parrotfish, eat macro-algae. When these fish are removed, the control on macro-algal growth is removed, which is again bad for corals. On a more complex ecosystem level, eutrophication can lead to an increase in bacteria, phytoplankton, and their consumers in the water column. More particles become available in the water column and bio-eroders, such as boring sponges and mussels can use this extra food. This leads to more drilling of holes in the coral skeleton, which weakens the corals. If their skeleton is not strong, they easily break off during storms. Again bad news for corals.

There are various well-known examples of the effects of eutrophication on coral reefs in the scientific literature. On Barbados, reduced growth, reduced reproduction, reduction of successful settlement, and changes in the coral composition have been recorded. In Jamaica the coral reef has been replaced by a macro-algae or seaweed reef helped strongly by heavy overfishing and disease that wiped out the sea urchins. In Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, heavy sewage discharge led to enormous amounts of macro-algae (up to 2.5 m high!) and an almost complete loss of corals. After the sewage discharge was diverted to deep water away from the island, the macro-algae disappeared and corals have come back to a reasonable extent. Although the precise causative mechanisms are often still unclear, there is no doubt that eutrophication has serious negative effects on the health of coral reefs. —

Figure 1. Inorganic nitrogen concentrations at 2 m depth in coral reef and the adjacent oceanic water in Curaçao. A: Oceanic water compared to non-eutrophied reef water. B: Eutrophied compared to non-eutrophied reef water. C: Harbor water. DIN = Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (= NH4+ + NO2 + NO3). Mean ± sd (n=4).

Eutrophication in Curaçao

On Curaçao, there are three main sources of nutrient pollution. The first and most obvious is sewage discharge along Willemstad. At Marie Pompoen, beside the Avila Beach Hotel and near the old library in Punda there are 3 sewage pipes that discharge about 1000 m3 of untreated sewage per day. A lot of sewage is also discharged into the Waaigat, Schottegat, and Anna Bay (there is a report that indicates the amounts by Letitia Buth and Tico Ras). Also, industrial waste from the refinery, the slaughterhouse, etc. is discharged into the Schottegat. With each outgoing tide and after heavy rain the water flows out of the Anna Bay and over the reef east or west of it. A second, more erratic, source of mainly inorganic nutrients is runoff with rain. Rainwater runs off the streets and through drainage channels to the sea and takes rubbish, sediment, etc. from the land to the water. The third and least visible source of nutrients is groundwater seepage. Only 38% of the households on Curaçao are connected to the sewage system and the rest uses septic tanks. In septic tanks, organic matter is broken down by bacteria, which changes nutrients to inorganic forms, but does not remove them. Water from the septic tanks sinks down into the bottom. Most of the bottom under Willemstad consists of fossil reefs, which are very porous and the water easily seeps through. On average, the total of septic tank water is equal to the total of rainwater that seeps through to the groundwater. This results in very high nitrate concentrations in the groundwater. At the same time, some groundwater is pumped up and used for irrigation, but this happens mainly further away from the town. When more and more septic tank and rainwater is added to the groundwater, this is eventually pushed sideways out of the ground and onto the reef. It will depend strongly on the amount of rain in a year or season how much comes out, but come out it does.

Which of these influences can be recognized in patterns of nutrient concentrations at Curaçao? I sampled water at different stations along the coast of Curaçao and measured inorganic nutrients from February 1994 until March 1995 with 2 or 3-week intervals (see map on page 4)

Station Ocean is 3 km away from the island in deep oceanic water.

Station Upcurrent is just east of Fuik, where clean oceanic water comes in and flows over the reef. There is no urban development or agriculture at Eastpoint and hence no influence of humans.

  • Station 2 is in front of Jan Thiel Lagun.
  •  Town Reef is just west of the Avila Beach Hotel in front of Punda.
  • Harbour is in the mouth of Anna Bay under the floating bridge.
  • Station 5 is between Sonesta and Caribbean hotels.
  • Station 7 is Slangenbaai
  • Downcurrent is Pestbaai (a.k.a Vrijgezellenbaai).

In Fig. 1A comparison of nitrate concentrations is made between non-eutrophied reef water and the adjacent ocean. The nitrate concentration was always higher in the water above the reef. The ammonium concentration was the same in the reef and oceanic water (the same concentrations as nitrate). Only nitrate was enhanced. Since there are no influences of humans at this reef such as sewage and groundwater seepage, this nitrate must have been excreted by reef organisms or micro-organisms in the sediment. This is a natural phenomenon in reef waters and has previously been found on other reefs, e.g. in the Great Barrier Reef. There was no difference in phosphate concentrations at Fuik and Ocean (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Phosphate concentration at 2 m depth in eutrophied and non-eutrophied reef waters and the adjacent oceanic water. Mean ± sd (n=4).

Fig. 1B shows a comparison of eutrophied and non-eutrophied reefs in DIN (Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen, which is ammonium + nitrite + nitrate; nitrite is less than 1 % of DIN). On most of the days I sampled, DIN levels were strongly elevated in front of town. There is large variation through time because sewage discharge is not continuous and the water current over the reef flat is highly variable. Note that the scale of Fig 1 B is ten times larger than that of 1A. DIN at Town Reef consists roughly of 50% ammonium and 50% nitrate. Phosphate concentrations were also usually higher at Avila than at Fuik or in the adjacent ocean (Fig. 2). From July to October 1994, weekly samples were collected and more reef stations were included. The results are shown in figure 3, where the open circles indicate Ocean, the filled diamonds Avila, and the bars various reef sites. Different patterns become clear in this figure. In week 6 (22 Aug.) both ammonium and phosphate peaked. Smaller peaks of these two nutrients occurred in week 2. This is a general phenomenon that can also be seen in figures 1B and 2: ammonium and phosphate are both high or both low. The reason is that sewage is collected in large underground reservoirs which are emptied when full. This results in an erratic discharge pattern. On some days I sample in a sewage cloud, but on other days I caught normal reef water. The latter does not mean that there was no sewage discharge, but merely that I missed it. Another pattern that emerges from figure 3 is that nitrate behaves very differently from ammonium. Nitrate was not elevated in week 6, but clearly so in weeks 9, 10, and 11. This shows that the source of nitrate cannot be sewage (the reason no nitrate comes out with sewage is that bacterial activity in the underground reservoirs depletes oxygen, which prevents oxidation of NH4 to NO2 to NO3). This nitrate came into the reef by groundwater seepage. There was rain at the end of August and some groundwater with high nitrate concentrations gradually seeped out during the following weeks. We can conclude that there is nutrient pollution in the reef water column in front of Punda caused by sewage discharge and groundwater seepage.

Figure 3. Nutrient concentrations at 2 m depth in fringing coral reef waters and adjacent ocean in Curaçao. Stations along the southern shore. Town reef is eutrophied, bars indicate sites away from eutrophication. Mean ± sd (n=4). Accuracy is accuracy of the measurement methods.
DIN levels in the Anna Bay are shown in figure 1C. Note that the scale is again enlarged by almost a factor 10. This DIN consists for about 80% of ammonium. Large fluctuation is caused by the tide. With in going tide I sampled reef water flowing in and with ebbing tide I sampled increasingly more polluted water from further down the bay. These values are extremely high. The reason is that severe eutrophication is combined with a very long residence time of the water. Sources of eutrophication are sewage, runoff and groundwater seepage (indicated in this case by silicate levels; silicate originates from the volcanic core of the island). The water exchange time of the Anna Bay and Schottegat is probably in the order of magnitude of 100 days (it must be noted that this figure depends strongly on the amount of rain). It takes a very long time before nutrients are washed out of the bay. Phosphate concentrations in the Harbour are comparable to those at Avila. This shows that groundwater seepage is relatively more important, because phosphate is bound to limestone in the old reefs. An important question is how far the pollution from the Harbour reaches along the shore. As shown in Fig. 4 elevated ammonium, nitrite and nitrate can be measured up to 4 km down current of the harbour with outgoing tide. This number should be used very carefully, as I did this long transect on one day only. When there are high waves and a strong current, the pollution will be diluted very rapidly, but on calm days the harbour water may reach much further along the coast.

Figure 4. Dissolved inorganic forms of nitrogen in coral reef waters and adjacent oceanic water along the southern coast of Curaçao on 22 February 1994, with outgoing tide. Numbers on the x-axis indicate distance in km to the harbour in the middle of town. Town ranges from 4.5 km east to 4 km west of Harbour. Mean ± sd (n=4).

State of the coral reefs along the southern shore of Curaçao.

Healthy, well developed reefs with many species and large colonies can be seen near Eastpoint where clean oceanic water arrives at the island and no eutrophication occurs. Aside from a few spots with local problems (Fuik, Caracas Bay) reefs are still in rather decent shape up to Seaquarium where the construction of the Seaquarium breakwaters and beach have completely exterminated the coral reefs. Between Seaquarium beach and Princess Beach there is a drainage channel which is usually dry, but with heavy rain much sediment and organic nutrients come out causing very turbid waters. Between this channel and the Anna Bay there are 3 sewage pipes and some artificial beaches. The reefs are strongly degraded over this stretch. I have measured in 1991 that both total coral cover and the number of species are reduced by 50% at Avila compared to the reef east of Seaquarium. Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis and Porites porites are completely gone, the Agaricia’s have mostly disappeared and only head corals survive (Diploria’s, Montastrea’s, Colphophyllia natansSiderastrea sidereaPorites asteroides) and Madracis mirabilis manage to hold. These findings have more recently been repeated by students of Prof. Rolf Bak at Marie Pompoen and Avila. They also showed that especially the baby corals are missing. This is very worrisome, because new recruitment is needed to get restoration of the reefs. Another important finding has been by Erik Meesters and students who have shown that more injuries occur on corals in front of the town and that these heal slower. West of the Anna Bay the reef terrace is bare coral rock for the first kilometer or so. There is nothing that survives the mixture of high nutrients, metals, oil and other toxic chemicals that come out of the harbor bay. In front of Holiday Beach there are some poorly developed corals again that try to make a living. The coral reef basically isn’t much until a few kilometers past the Piscadera Bay. In general, the coral reefs in front of Willemstad are strongly degraded which is related to the presence of that town.

It is impossible to determine exactly how much of this degradation has been caused by nutrient pollution. Other important direct or indirect destructive factors are or could be: sedimentation (both from runoff and artificial beaches), overfishing, toxic chemicals in sewage (what are effects of chloride and detergents on corals?) and oil pollution. Moreover such negative influences often enhance each other. However, there is no doubt that nutrient pollution is a serious problem afflicting the health of the coral reefs along Curaçao and that counter measures should be taken.

The simplest and cheapest “end of the pipe solution” to nutrient pollution is to literally lay the end of the pipes further out in deeper water away from the reefs. This would certainly reduce the direct effects of sewage discharge on the coral reef of Curaçao and should be considered as a TEMPORARY first solution. On the long term this would not solve all the problems and lead to healthy coral reefs. First, this discharge still contributes to the general eutrophication of the ocean and may lead to negative effects on far longer time and spatial scales than we can currently see. Moreover, we have no idea what effects of chemicals in the sewage are and these may very well be pretty destructive at very low concentrations. Dilution is no solution to pollution. The only way to solve the eutrophication problem is to connect all households (no more septic tanks) and industries to a sewage system, treat that water and remove the nutrients. Although this is very expensive and will take considerable time to develop, it is the solution that should be worked towards. Using secondary treated sewage water for irrigation is a good alternative to removing the nutrients in a tertiary treatment step as long as these nutrients do not sink into the groundwater and seep out to the reef. Second, as long as the harbour stays as heavily polluted as it is at the moment, it will remain a source of nutrients and other toxic chemicals. It is really time that the industry around Schottegat is forced to live up to modern environmental standards and clean up their rubbish. Third, runoff and sedimentation will stay serious problems that have to be dealt with. Basins with vegetation (the good old mangroves) should be constructed in which the sediment in runoff water can sink out before the water reaches the sea. Artificial beaches should not be allowed anymore. Every reef in front of an artificial beach is a desert.

Afterword

What Curaçao needs is a long term commitment and realistic plan to counter the effects of the dense population on its reefs and these intentions need to be enforced by laws. Healthy coral reefs along the southern coast of Curaçao are no utopian idea. If industries, dive operators, recreational users, environmental NGO’s, underwater park management and government services are willing to commit themselves and cooperate both among each other and with scientists and law enforcers, the coral reefs of Curaçao can be saved and improved. Essential, however, is that protection of the reefs is not placed second in priority to short term economical gains. It is realistic to state that if nothing is changed Curaçao will have no more coral reefs in a few decades. But not all is bleak and hopeless, construction of a sewage system for the Punda side of town is now finally underway while a sewage system for the Otrobanda side was completed a few years back. Things are changing and can change further. It is up to the people of Curaçao to choose the changes in the right direction, not only for the wellbeing of the corals and all the other reef organisms, but for themselves as well. Curaçao without coral reefs would be a sad development indeed.

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GOVERNMENTS: PROTECT THE CORAL REEFS!

Curaçao, 31 October 2002 — The island of St. Martin (both the French and the Dutch sides) will be hosting the second Caribbean Coral Reef Conference next year. This was announced by the representatives of the two marine parks around St. Martin at the end of the first conference on Curaçao.

From October 24 to 29, representatives of Caribbean marine parks, coral reef conservation organizations, and grassroots groups, as well as representatives from the private sector and government services, discussed the urgency of reef conservation. It was clear that the problems are very similar everywhere, but that each island or country has developed its own solutions, which can often be helpful for other (is)lands. Participants were very satisfied with the contacts made during the conference as well as the lessons learned from each other’s experiences. Everyone agreed that these contacts should be kept alive and that meetings such as this should be held regularly. The NACRI (Netherlands Antilles Coral Reef Initiative) will undertake to expand its website www.nacri.org with links to initiatives and contacts in the other Caribbean nations.

Sustainable tourism

In his opening speech for the conference, Curaçao Commissioner of Tourism Ramon Chong announced that, in anticipation of legislation, he has decided to have moorings placed in the Curaçao waters. Thus, dive and fishing boats can moor without damaging the corals by anchoring as is still happening at the moment. Chong emphasized that Curaçao is serious about sustainable tourism, i.e. use of the natural beauty of the island by both tourists and local people, without a negative impact on nature.

Ms. Islelly Pikerie, Minister of Public Health and Environment of the Netherlands Antilles, presented a keynote address. She emphasized the vital importance of coral reefs to the islands and the need to protect them in the face of continuing degradation. She stressed that for this it is necessary to have the support of the whole community. She applauded the NACRI as a multi-stakeholder approach, supported by the Antillean government which has officially joined the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). Furthermore, she stressed the need for adequate legislation to protect the reefs, still lacking on Curaçao and St. Maarten, as well as legislation to regulate fisheries which all islands except Saba still lack.

Antillean biodiversity

The necessity of legislation was recognized by the participants of the conference as well. Proper legislation will make it possible to protect the reefs, while at the same time ensuring their use in a sustainable way by both fishermen and tourists. According to the participants, the Netherlands should also assume its responsibility. The biodiversity of the Antillean islands is a cause extending beyond the Caribbean, and of worldwide importance. As part of the Kingdom, the Netherlands should give more assistance in the financing of coral reef conservation in the Antilles, as well as focus more attention on the coral reefs.

In the course of the conference, the participants concluded that governments and local people are still not sufficiently aware of the fact that coral reefs are an economic product, attracting lots of tourists. Deterioration of the coral reefs might in the long run keep diving and snorkeling tourists from coming to the islands, with severe consequences for the economies of the Caribbean, most of which are heavily dependent on tourism. So, because of the economic value of reefs, financial support from the government is hardly a luxury, but more of a stark necessity. Yet presently the level of financial support from governments is far too low.

Financial problems

Money is a universal problem. In Sint Maarten for example the Marine Park has very limited powers because structural financial support is lacking and user fees cannot be levied without legislation. Paul Ellinger, assistant manager of the Marine Park: ‘The policymakers, both from St. Maarten, the Netherlands Antilles, and the Netherlands, really must give nature conservation top priority. We cannot achieve sustainable economic or tourism development if we do not take care of our nature and environment.’ That is exactly why this conference is so important explained Gershon Lopes, assistant manager of the St. Eustatius Marine Park: ‘Everyone is saying that there is no money, but by pooling resources with our neighboring islands and by organizing things together we can save money. And time. Not every island needs to discover which types of moorings are best. You can learn from each other. It is important to keep in contact.’

In this context, Jill Meyer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, USA) Coral Reef Program called on the participants to keep the momentum and follow up on the successful conference. The NOAA runs and finances several monitoring programs in the Caribbean.

Coastal development

For the French islands, it was the first time that they were in contact at this level with so many other islands in the Caribbean. Since the French islands are provinces of France, policymakers are more oriented towards Paris than towards the neighboring islands. Franck Mazéas (French Department of Environment on Guadeloupe) was impressed by the large number of participants involved with the coral reefs and was willing to actively help protect them. At the same time, he was surprised that development right up to the edge of the sea is still allowed on Curaçao in spite of the amply proven detrimental effects on the coral reefs.

George Warner of the University of the West Indies and the CARICOM Data Center in Jamaica was satisfied with the many contacts made during the conference. ‘I enjoyed it and I am optimistic about the future of this group of participants. I am not sure whether I can be optimistic about the future of the coral reefs. But I am hopeful.’

Ecological balance

During the conference, it became clear that even world-acclaimed coral reefs like those of Bonaire are gradually declining. Causes are mostly human. Bonaire for instance still has no wastewater treatment system, so nutrients eventually end up in the coastal waters, causing algal growth detrimental to corals. The number of large fish such as groupers has declined alarmingly due to overfishing. Overfishing removes the big predatory fish from the reefs, thus disturbing the ecological balance.

During the conference, the island of St. Lucia was presented as a country that has regulated its fisheries well. The reefs remain intact, while there is still enough fish for local fishermen.

The successful conference showed how local initiatives may succeed in earning support and appreciation from other Caribbean islands as well as international organizations which were also present, like CARICOM, WIDECAST, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and Greenpeace Netherlands. After consultation with the other participants at the conference, the collective Antillean coral reef organizations gathered in the NACRI presented a number of projects to promote the protection of the coral reefs as well as awareness among local people. To start with three projects, an amount of 35.000 Antillean guilders is needed. Over the coming three years a much larger amount of about 350.000 guilders will be needed

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NACRI — NETHERLANDS ANTILLES CORAL REEF INITIATIVE

Coral reefs are found off all five main islands in the Netherlands Antilles. In fact, all five islands boast marine parks that encompass a significant fraction of those coral reefs. But recent events, including major groundings by rice freighters and cruise ships in the last three years, coastal development and dredging, wastewater pollution, and increasing incidence of disease, highlight the need for national government coordination and protection of these coral reefs. As the global deterioration of coral reefs is brought closer to home by recent news of the death of some of the reefs off Belize and elsewhere, due to bleaching, the need for a national initiative in line with international efforts is ever more apparent.

NACRI came into being at the Netherlands Antilles National Nature Forum in 2000, where all organizations and agencies involved with nature conservation in the islands of the Netherlands Antilles met and decided (among other things) that the coral reefs needed special attention. It responds to the call to action from the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), to form regional and national initiatives to preserve the coral reefs.

Netherlands Antilles Combine Forces to Preserve Coral Reefs

Like the ICRI, the NACRI brings together a broad range of organizations and groups: nature conservation organizations that manage the marine parks of the islands, government agencies involved with nature conservation, research institutes, non-governmental pressure groups concerned about coral reefs, but also businesses that exist by the grace of the coral reefs and their branch organizations, such as the Curaçao Dive Operators’ Association (CDOA) and the Bonairean Council of Underwater Resort Operators (CURO)

On February 9, 2001, all these organizations, agencies, and businesses involved with coral reefs, from all of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles, met in Bonaire during a workshop convened in order to draft an action plan to preserve the coral reefs of the Netherlands Antilles. In total, some 40 people were present at the workshop.

The purpose of the workshop was to set priorities for coral reef conservation in all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles and formulate actions based on these priorities. Presentations by the different islands soon made it clear that the priorities in the different islands are largely the same. A representative of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), from the Caribbean regional coordinating unit of the UN Environment Programme, affirmed once more the seriousness of the state of the coral reefs and the need for national, regional, and international concerted action. The Netherlands Antilles can be proud that they now form part of a still select group of countries that have embarked upon a national coral reef initiative. Of great significance was the fact that Mr. L. Abraham, Minister of Public Health and Environment, opened the meeting, and in his welcoming remarks assured the participants of his government’s commitment to NACRI and to the sustainable management and protection of the coral reefs as an important resource for the islands and people of the Netherlands Antilles

The main priorities for coral reef conservation identified by the NACRI consist first and foremost of the need to persuade and mobilize the local population of the islands for the coral reefs. Of great importance also is the need to support the local Marine Protected Areas or Parks. It is also very necessary to improve regulations and legislation to protect the coral reefs, and of course to enforce them. Another very important need is to prevent marine pollution from land-based sources and activities, especially those caused by wastewater and by coastal construction and development activities. Finally, it is necessary to monitor the state of the reefs and to coordinate monitoring programs on the different islands. Of course, to address many of these priorities, funding will also be necessary.

Based on these priorities the NACRI workshop issued a declaration, summing up all the actions the workshop resolved to undertake. These actions are varied, ranging from the introduction of new fish trap designs to media campaigns to persuade people of the importance of the coral reefs; from the training of Marine Park personnel to introducing coral reefs into the school curricula; from information campaigns for fishermen to lobbying for improved legislation.
The final declaration issued by all the organizations and groups gathered at this NACRI workshop, also strongly encourages the governments of the islands, in particular of Curaçao and St. Maarten, to enact Island Marine Environment Ordinances and Nature Policy Plans as soon as possible.
The NACRI declaration finally encourages the central government of the Netherlands Antilles to implement and ratify the Protocol on land Based Sources and Activities of Pollution of the Cartagena Convention.

During the workshop, ten working groups were established to start work immediately on implementing the proposed actions. It was decided that henceforth NACRI will meet semi-annually to report on the progress of implementing the actions and to reassess the status of the priorities. Right after the conclusion of the workshop, this website was set up to facilitate quick and efficient communication among the NACRI participants, as well as to provide information to others.

Final Declaration of the NACRI Workshop
Bonaire, February 9th, 2001

The Netherlands’ Antilles Coral Reef Initiative (NACRI) participants, all stakeholders in the health and preservation of coral reefs, originating from Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten, gathered in Bonaire on February 9, 2001,

Being concerned with the state of coral reefs and related ecosystems worldwide, and

Being particularly alarmed by the continuing rapid deterioration of coral reefs in the Netherlands Antilles,

Recognizing our islands’ strong economic dependency on these fragile marine resources, as well as their ecological/biological value,

Aware of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), and the principles of sustainable development as articulated in Agenda 21 of the UNCED conference in Rio de Janeiro, 1992,

Considering the weak public support and funding for coral reef preservation, the increasing activities in the coastal zones that negatively impact the coral reefs, and the inadequate legislation and enforcement of regulations aimed at preserving the coral reefs,

Have identified a preliminary list of priorities, resulting in the following proposed short-term actions: Establish a working group to coordinate all coral reef monitoring activities and prepare an annual report organize an information program for local fishermen, presented by a fisherman from St. Lucia, to illustrate the effectiveness of a no-fishing reserve on fish populations outside the reserve area introduce innovations in fish trap design develop strategies toward sustainable fisheriesFormulate and implement a media campaign targeting:

  • sewage problems on all islands
  • the importance of coral reefs to the islands
  • The importance of the Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) of the Neth. Antilles
  • Informing people on yachts and other vessels on MARPOL

Establish a funding committee establish a legislative committeeTrain MPA staff, stakeholders and educators encourage and assist the Education Department in incorporating environmental programs, and specifically coral reef programs, into the formal curriculum of all schools encourage all other islands to embrace standards of construction affecting the marine environment as having been formulated on Bonaire. (Code of conduct for construction of piers, docks, etc. )

Have assigned these tasks to various working groups,

Resolve to meet semi-annually to discuss the results of these working groups in the implementation of the above actions, and to reassess the priorities and resulting actions,

Strongly encourage the Island Governments, in particular of Curaçao and St. Maarten, to enact Marine Environment Ordinances and Nature Policy Plans,

Encourage the central government to ratify and implement the Protocol on “Land-Based Sources and Activities of Marine Pollution” of the Cartagena Convention,

Call on the government and the people of the Netherlands Antilles to support the islands’ Marine Protected Areas.

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