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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 673:55-68 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13792

Different resiliencies in coral communities over ecological and geological time scales in American Samoa

Charles Birkeland1,*, Alison Green2, Alice Lawrence3, Georgia Coward3, Motusaga Vaeoso3, Douglas Fenner4

1Department of Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 94-258 Olua Pl, Waipahu, Hawaii 96797, USA
2Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia
3American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799, USA
4Lynker Technologies, LLC, Contractor, NOAA Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office, Honolulu, Hawaii 96799, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In 1917, Alfred Mayor surveyed a 270 m transect on a reef flat on American Samoa. Eleven surveys were conducted on the transect from 1917 to 2019. The coral community on the reef crest was resilient over the century, occasionally being seriously damaged but always recovering rapidly. In contrast, the originally most dense coral community on the reef flat has been steadily deteriorating throughout the century. Resilience of coral communities in regions of high wave energy on the reef crests was associated with the important binding function of the crustose coralline alga (CCA) Porolithon onkodes. Successful coral recruits were found on CCA 94% of the time, yet living coral cover correlated negatively with CCA cover as they became alternative winners in competition. Mayor drilled a core from the transect on the surface to the basalt base of the reef 48 m below. Communities on Aua reef were dominated by scleractinians through the Holocene, while cores on another transect 2 km away showed the reef was occupied by alcyonaceans of the genus Sinularia, which built the massive reef with spiculite to the basalt base 37 m below. Despite periods of sea levels rising 9 to 15 times the rate of reef accretion, the reefs never drowned. The consistency of scleractinians on Aua reef and Sinularia on Utulei Reef 2 km away during the Holocene was because the shape of the bay allowed more water motion on Aua reef. After 10700 yr of reef building by octocorals, coastal construction terminated this spiculite-reef development.


KEY WORDS: Resilience · Rubble · Keystone species · Ecological scale · Geographical scale · Spiculite reefs · Sinularia · Dolomite · Porolithon · Crustose coralline algae · Octocoral · Scleractinians


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Cite this article as: Birkeland C, Green A, Lawrence A, Coward G, Vaeoso M, Fenner D (2021) Different resiliencies in coral communities over ecological and geological time scales in American Samoa. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 673:55-68. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13792

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