Hurricane effects on backreef echinoderms of the Caribbean
The impacts of Hurricanes Gilbert (1988) and Hugo (1989) on echinoderm assemblages were assessed in backreef habitats in Jamaica and St. Croix, respectively. One site on each island was censused before the hurricanes. Ophiuroids were monitored at the Jamaican site for three years following Hurricane Gilbert, and ophiuroids and echinoids were monitored at the site on St. Croix for two years following Hurricane Hugo. No hurricane-related changes in ophiuroid abundance were observed at either site. Likewise, there was no evidence that Hurricane Hugo altered echinoid abundance at St. Croix. These negative results correlated with an observed lack of hurricane-generated physical disturbance in the backreef areas, despite 6-m waves that broke on the reef crests at the two sites during the storms. Hurricane impacts on mobile faunas appear to depend directly on physical habitat alterations.