The volcanic island of Saba -

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Saba, a small island in the northeastern Caribbean Sea. Saba is the top of a volcano that became active during the Pleistocene era.

“Located about 140 kilometers east of the U.S. Virgin Islands, the active stratovolcano rises 1,500 meters above the sea floor,” says NASA. “Above the water, rainforests cover the steep slopes of the volcano, home to many birds, orchids and reptiles, including an endemic spotted lizard, the Saban anole (Anolus sabensis). Below the water, corals and other species thrive.”

“The largest city and the capital city of the island, called The Bottom, lies between the port and the higher elevations of the volcano.” 

Due to a lack of sandy beaches, Saba is not a major tourist destination like other Caribbean islands. However, it is a popular spot for divers to find corals and sea urchins.

According to NASA, sea urchins in the Caribbean started mysteriously dying off in early 2022. Dive shops in the region began reporting mysterious sea urchin die offs in February, particularly the long-spined sea urchin Diadema antillarum. 

“Saba’s reef was once home to more than 5,000 D. antillarum. But in April 2022, in a section of Saba’s reef called ‘Diadema City,’ half of the long-spined sea urchins died off in just one week, and only 100 remained in June, according to reporting in ScienceNews.”

“The massive loss of sea urchins is reminiscent of a die-off that started in 1983, in which virtually all of the D. antillarum population in the Caribbean was eliminated within a year. Although the exact cause of the 1983 and 2022 die-offs is still a mystery, many researchers agree that the speed and scope of the event in the 1980s indicates the spread of an unknown disease,” says NASA.

The image was captured on August 16, 2022 by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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