Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

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Currently I am a PhD student studying long-term time series of the coral reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire (Caribbean) as well as the relation between sponge bioerosion and the loss of reef 3D-complexity. The PhD project is a collaboration between the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Wageningen Marine Research and is supervised by Dr. Fleur van Duyl, Dr. Erik Meesters and Prof. Dr. Rolf Bak. 

The studied time series includes pictures of permanent 9 m2 quadrats located on the reef slope between 10 and 40 m depth. They were first photographed in 1973 by Rolf Bak and represent the longest running time series of coral reefs in the world. This series we have used to follow the trajectories of change of the various dominant benthic organisms (corals, algae, sponges, calcifying algae and cyanobacteria) and showed the different stages of reef degradation in the past four decades.

In the second part of this project I will look in more detail at this reef degradation and in particular excavating sponges. These animals actively destroy and weaken corals by boring into the limestone skeleton and their activity and abundance has increased in the slipstream of the usual suspects: global warming, pollution, overfishing and ocean acidification.



De Bakker, DM, Van Duyl, FC, Bak, RP, Nugues, MM, Nieuwland, G, & Meesters, EH (2017). 40 Years of benthic community change on the Caribbean reefs of Curaçao and Bonaire: the rise of slimy cyanobacterial mats. Coral Reefs, 36(2), 355-367.

De Bakker DM, Meesters EH, Bak RPM, Nieuwland G and Van Duyl FC (2016) Long-term Shifts in Coral Communities On Shallow to Deep Reef Slopes of Curaçao and Bonaire: Are There Any Winners? Front. Mar. Sci. 3:247. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00247

De Bakker DM, Meesters EHWG, van Bleijswijk JDL, Luttikhuizen PC, Breeuwer HJAJ, Becking LE (2016) Population Genetic Structure, Abundance, and Health Status of Two Dominant Benthic Species in the Saba Bank National Park, Caribbean Netherlands: Montastraea cavernosa and Xestospongia muta. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155969.

De Bakker, DM, Wilkinson, M and Jensen, B (2015), Extreme variation in the atrial septation of caecilians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona). J. Anat., 226: 1–12. doi:10.1111/joa.12255

Becking, LE, & De Bakker, DM (2014). Genetic diversity and connectivity of populations on the Sababank (No. C015/15). IMARES Wageningen UR.