MEPS 319:111-116 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps319111

Enhanced energy status of corals on coastal, high-turbidity reefs

Kenneth R. N. Anthony*

Centre for Coral Reef Biodiversity, School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
Present address: Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia

ABSTRACT: Sedimentation and high turbidity have long been considered a major threat to corals, causing world-wide concern for the health of coral reefs in coastal environments. While studies have demonstrated that sediment conditions characteristic of inshore reefs cause stress in corals, the consequences of such conditions for the physiological status of corals require testing in field situations. Here, I compare the size of energy stores (as lipid content), a proxy for physiological condition, of 2 coral species (Turbinaria mesenterina and Acropora valida) between coastal and offshore environments. Corals on coastal reefs contained 4-fold (T. mesenterina) and 2-fold (A. valida) more lipid than conspecifics offshore, despite 1 order of magnitude higher turbidity levels inshore. Results were consistent across 4 sites in each environment. Reproductive investment in A. valida (a seasonal mass spawner) did not vary between environments, suggesting that the larger lipid stores in corals on coastal reefs are mainly somatic energy reserves. These results demonstrate that the environmental conditions on inshore, high-turbidity reefs do not always impact negatively on the physiology of corals. The contrasting lipid levels of T. mesenterina between environments may explain its greater success on coastal reefs.

KEY WORDS: Turbidity · Sedimentation · Energy storage · Lipid · Scleractinian coral

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