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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 351:91-102 (2007)  -  DOI:

Effects of reproductive mode on habitat-related differences in the population structure of eight Caribbean coral species

M. J. A. Vermeij1,2,*, P. R. Frade3,4,5, R. I. R. Jacinto3, A. O. Debrot2, R. P. M. Bak4,5

1Botany Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 3190 Maile Way, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
2Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (CARMABI), Piscaderabaai z/n, PO Box 2090, Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles
3Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências, Departamento de Biologia Animal, Campo Grande-Bloco C2, 1750 Lisboa, Portugal
4University of Amsterdam, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), PO Box 94766, 1090 GT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
5Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, 1790 AB Den Burg, Texel, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: We compared the population structure of 8 common coral species in 2 contrasting habitats, the oceanic fringing reefs and the inland bays in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Inland bays are only partially connected to the open ocean and are characterized by a natural suite of environmental factors thought to be detrimental to coral community development. Compared with the inland bays, coral cover and coral colony density were higher on the fringing reefs (7.6 and 11.7 times, respectively). Coral species that release gametes in the water column (‘broadcast spawners’) showed a much greater difference in population structure and density between inland bay and reef habitats compared to brooding species. Our results show that (1) ‘marginal’ habitats are not equally marginal to all species, (2) differential susceptibility to partial mortality plays a central role in restricting colony growth in inland bay habitats, and (3) most likely, post-settlement mortality rather than larval supply plays a key role in causing differences in habitat-scale size-frequency distributions. Broadcasting species reached larger mean and maximum colony size on the fringing reefs, whereas brooders did not show this pattern. The overrepresentation of large colonies in communities that had degraded in response to anthropogenic disturbance was not observed among coral populations in inland bays. Such characteristics deserve critical attention, as they can be used to distinguish between naturally and anthropogenically stressed Caribbean coral communities.

KEY WORDS: Scleractinia · Reproductive strategy · Population structure · Size-frequency distribution · Marginal habitats

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Cite this article as: Vermeij MJA, Frade PR, Jacinto RIR, Debrot AO, Bak RPM (2007) Effects of reproductive mode on habitat-related differences in the population structure of eight Caribbean coral species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 351:91-102.

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