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Nell and Trav

Need help developing reef Earthcache

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I'm having some trouble getting an Earthcache published and I just need some help to get it pushed over the edge to make it publishable. The site is in Akumal in Mexico and it is about the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The main problem is that there is too much focus on the biology of the reef compared to the geology of the reef. I'm not sure if I can just link to a disabled non-published cache, so I will just post the text below:

 

To understand the basics of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is the first step in understanding the geology of the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Millions of years ago, the entire Yucatan Peninsula was below the Caribbean Sea. Essentially, what we now know as the Mayan Riviera was nothing but one enormous reef system. As time moved toward present times, the size of the reef grew and the water level dropped making the reefs stick outside of the water. Being above the water level, the exposed corals died and turned into limestone. This limestone eventually became the bedrock that covers the entire Yucatan Peninsula. As you journey throughout the Mayan Riviera, it is common to come across exposed bedrock, which looks eerily like same coral that still today makes up the great Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

 

So in a way, this Earthcache does not simply teach an Earth Science lesson, but it also teaches a Biology lesson as well. In fact, the lesson has to start out with Biology because the Coral Reef's basic structure is a “rock-like” formation that is actually a mass of small organisms called polyps. When polyps die they excrete an exoskeleton made of calcium carbonate, which forms their distinctive shapes as a colony. Thousands of coral colonies build up over time to form the reef. After an extensive period of time, the reef may die off, perhaps because the conditions of the environment change for the worse for the corals. Since reefs often form in conditions where there is a lot of water movement (because the water is more oxygenated in these areas), if the colony is no longer being sustained by living polyps the colonies break up. Reefs can still break up when the coral is still alive if the conditions are severe. Sedimentation and cementation occurs as calcium carbonate precipitates out of the water and of the exoskeletons of the coral..

 

So long story short, the life cycle of a Reef begins as a biological organism known as a polyp and as it ends its life, it essentially becomes limestone. For those of you that have traveled around this area of Mexico prior to searching out this cache, you will understand the importance of limestone to the area. Specifically, limestone was the main building material of the ancient Mayans who built the nearby walled city of Tulum with limestone bricks and even mortar made out of a limestone derivative known as Cal. With the abundance of limestone in the area, it should be no surprise that the mining of limestone from these ancient seabeds is still a huge part of Mexico’s resource economy.

 

Once established, Coral reefs buffer coastlines from the pounding of waves by breaking the force of the waves. This protects nearby coastal property, like the sunny beaches that we love to spend our winters. Healthy coral reefs constantly grow and repair damage caused by these destructive waves, providing continuous protection for adjacent coastline. These valuable reefs also act as the feeding and nursery habitats for marine mammals, reptiles, fishes and invertebrates. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish, and one of the world's largest manatee populations, numbering an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 manatees, the reef system has some of the most vibrant marine life seen anywhere in the world.

 

Mesoamerican reefs, however, have been significantly damaged recently due to a combination of human and natural perturbations, with threats ranging from fishing, tourism, coastal development, land use, and agriculture to global climate change. A number of “natural” disturbances have threatened the reefs, such as coral bleaching, hurricanes and disease outbreaks; all of which may be accentuated by global climate change and thus not entirely “natural”. Another source of issue is agricultural runoff which has caused algae blooms on the reefs, which stunts coral growth and blocks the much needed light from smaller organisms.

 

Unfortunately, it is these things that make the site in Akumal special because it is more susceptible to these risks than similar sites in Cancun and Cozumel. As you scuba or snorkel through the area, you will find evidence of the reefs being in decline. The reason Cancun and Cozumel are doing better than Akumal is because they are Marine protected and well managed to educate tourists and locals alike in reef stewardship and effective management of the marine protected area. While Akumal is not “maintained” like they are in other areas, it does give you a first hand look as what “natural” coral looks like, and how it is easily destroyed by carelessness. Luckily, there are great people working diligently at the dive center at ground zero to fight for the protection of the reef system and all the life that dwells within.

 

Thanks for any help you can give, and if I can, I will link to the cache.

 

Travis

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There are a number of earthcaches along the Florida Keys that focus, at least in part, on the geology of coral reefs and the limestone they become. Take a look and see if any of them give you ideas.

 

Backbone of the Keys

Bahia Honda Earthcache

Long Beach

Key West Marine Park

Shifting Sands of Garden Key

Castle in the Sand: Building Fort Jefferson

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Just a few quick thoughts:

Keep in mind that the geological lesson needs to be unique and "location specific".

So a general lesson about limestone in a coral is usually not sufficient. Or a discussion of coral as an erosion barrier, is generally not unique to a location, and could apply anywhere along a reef.

In some places, the growth and death of coral is an indicator of uplift or subsidence, which usually makes for a good lesson, and not one that you see at EVERY coral reef.

Coral reef caches are notoriously difficult. They're kind of like beaches. Yes, beaches contain geological materials (sand, minerals), but they are so widespread and relatively common, that in order to make a good, publishable EarthCache at one, there must be something unique about the geology at a particular location.

Good luck! Looks like you and the reviewer are on a good path forward.

--Matt

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