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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 426:185-196 (2011)  -  DOI:

Coral communities of Hong Kong: long-lived corals in a marginal reef environment

Nathalie F. Goodkin1,2,*, Adam D. Switzer3, Denise McCorry4, Lyndon DeVantier5, James D. True2, Konrad A. Hughen6, N. Angeline1, Teng Teng Yang1

1Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong SAR
2Swire Institute of Marine Science, University of Hong Kong, Cape D’Aguilar Road, Hong Kong SAR
3Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Block N2-01a-04, Singapore 639798
4Marine Team, Environmental Resources Management Australia, State One House, 6th Floor, 172 St. Georges Terrace, Perth, Western Australia 6000, Australia
520 Val Crescent, Noosaville, Queensland 4566, Australia
6Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA

ABSTRACT: Hong Kong’s coastal waters afford a marginal environment for coral reef growth, with high seasonal and short-term variability in water temperatures (ranging from <14°C in winter to 31°C in summer), and low summer salinity (as low as 15 psu) due to runoff associated with the Asian wet monsoon season and the Pearl River Delta. Yet Hong Kong hosts 84 reef-building coral species in 28 genera of 12 families of the Scleractinia, distributed in 5 broad communities with strong geographic and environmental affinities and key indicator species. Coral communities farthest from the influence of the Pearl River Delta have relatively high sea bed coverage and species diversity (30 to 50% coverage, and >30 spp. per site), and also host some large, old corals. X-radiographs of a core of one massive Porites colony confirms ~200 yr of growth, with 2 short-term periods of mortality, hidden in the skeleton by overgrowth. Very low linear extension rates (<4 mm yr–1) in this coral and 2 others are anomalous for Porites corals and are indicative of the high-stress environment. Low growth rates suggest that other Hong Kong corals, despite the harsh environmental conditions, may also live for centuries, contributing to the development of ‘incipient reefs’.

KEY WORDS: Hong Kong · Long-lived massive corals · Porites · South China Sea

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Cite this article as: Goodkin NF, Switzer AD, McCorry D, DeVantier L and others (2011) Coral communities of Hong Kong: long-lived corals in a marginal reef environment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 426:185-196.

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