High-sediment tolerance in the reef coral Turbinaria mesenterina from the inner Great Barrier Reef lagoon (Australia)

Sofonia, Jeremy J., and Anthony, Kenneth R.N. (2008) High-sediment tolerance in the reef coral Turbinaria mesenterina from the inner Great Barrier Reef lagoon (Australia). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science , 78 (4). pp. 748-752.

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Sedimentation is an important stressor on coral reefs subjected to run-off, dredging and resuspension events. Reefs with a history of high-sediment loads tend to be dominated by a few tolerant coral species. A key question is whether such species live close to their tolerance thresholds or near their niche optima. Here, we analyse experimentally the sediment tolerance of a spatially dominant coral, Turbinaria mesenterina (Dendrophylliidae), at nearshore reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Testing was conducted in a 5-week tank experiment under manipulated sediment loading and flow conditions. Physiological stress was assessed based on the behaviour of three key response variables: skeletal growth rate, energy reserves (lipid content) and photosynthetic performance. Because sediment effects are likely to vary between flow regimes, sediment and flow responses were tested using a full factorial design. Sediment loads greater than 110 mg cm−2 had no effect on any of the physiological variables, regardless of flow (0.7–24 cm s−1). Turbinaria mesenterina is thus tolerant to sediment loads an order of magnitude higher than most severe sediment conditions in situ. Likely mechanisms for such tolerance are that: (1) colonies covered in sediment (60–120 μm) in low-flow were able to clear themselves rapidly (within 4–5 h); and (2) sediment provides a source of food. These results suggest that intensified sediment regimes on coastal reefs may shift coral communities towards dominance by a few well-adapted species.

Item ID: 19388
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1096-0015
Keywords: physiological tolerance; stress; growth rate; lipid; calcification; Great Barrier Reef; scleractinian coral
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2012 06:42
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0606 Physiology > 060603 Animal Physiology Systems @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9611 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water > 961104 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Marine Environments @ 50%
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