Sediment associated with algal turfs inhibits the settlement of two endangered coral species

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 1:07pm
Tags: 
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 07/2019
Authors: Kelly Speare, Alain Duran, Margaret Miller, Deron Burkepile
Journal title: Marine Pollution Bulletin
Volume: 144
Pages: 189 - 195
ISSN: 0025326X

Populations of Acropora palmata and Orbicella faveolata, two important reef-building corals, have declined precipitously across the Caribbean region since at least the 1970s. Recruitment failure may be limiting population recovery, possibly due to lack of suitable settlement habitat. Here, we examine the effects of algal turfs and algal turfs + sediment, two widely abundant substrate types across the Florida Keys, on the settlement of these two ecologically-important species. We show that sedimentsignificantly impedes coral settlement, reducing settlement 10- and 13-fold for A. palmata and O. faveolata, respectively, compared to turf algae alone. This result is corroborated by our field survey data that showed a strong, negative relationship between the abundance of turf + sediment and the abundance of juvenile corals. Turf algae alone did not reduce coral settlement. Our results suggest that sediment-laden turf algae are detrimental to settling corals, but that turf algae alone may be relatively benign.

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