Inter-Research > MEPS > v713 > p1-19  
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 713:1-19 (2023)  -  DOI:

Decadal-scale variation in coral calcification on coral-depleted Caribbean reefs

Peter J. Edmunds1,*, Chris T. Perry2

1Department of Biology, California State University, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8303, USA
2Geography, Faculty of Environment, Science & Economy, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Over recent decades, many Caribbean reefs have transitioned to states where stony corals are no longer spatially dominant. The community dynamics culminating in this outcome are well known, but its functional implications remain incompletely understood. Here we used annual surveys from 1992 to 2019 to describe coral communities at 6 sites off St. John, US Virgin Islands, and explored how their ecological dynamics interact with their capacity to sustain estimated coral community calcification (G, kg CaCO3 m-2 yr-1). These communities had low coral cover (≤4.4%), but they changed through small and incremental events that summed to a slight decline in coral cover and changes in species assemblages favoring biotic homogenization and weedy species. Estimated coral G remained low, between 0.3 and 1.3 kg CaCO3 m-2 yr-1 (8.2-35.6 mmol CaCO3 m-2 d-1), but it differed among sites and years. The dominant contributors to G were Siderastrea siderea (1 site), Porites astreoides (1 site), and Orbicella spp. (4 sites), but higher G only occurred where Orbicella spp. remained relatively common; G dramatically declined at 1 site when the abundance of this genus decreased. These results suggest that some coral-depleted reefs may maintain low G that could be sufficient to avoid transitions into net negative budget states, provided that biological and physical erosion and dissolution of CaCO3 (not recorded here) are minimal. Further mortalities of the few coral species remaining on these reefs through disturbances like stony coral tissue loss disease would compromise this delicate production-erosion balance, and likely see transitions of such reefs into negative carbonate budget states.

KEY WORDS: Scleractinia · Community structure · Function · Framework

Full text in pdf format
Information about this Feature Article
Supplementary material
Cite this article as: Edmunds PJ, Perry CT (2023) Decadal-scale variation in coral calcification on coral-depleted Caribbean reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 713:1-19.

Export citation
Share:    Facebook - - linkedIn

Next article