Population dynamics and life histories of foliaceeous corals

Hughes, T.P., and Jackson, J.B.C. (1985) Population dynamics and life histories of foliaceeous corals. Ecological Monographs, 55 (2). pp. 141-166.

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The population dynamics of five species of foliaceous corals (Agaricia agaricites forma purpurea, A. lamarcki, Leptoseris cucullata, Montastrea annularis, and Porites astreoides) was followed on Jamaican reefs using annual photographic censuses. Overall, population cover, size frequencies, and number of colonies were stable over the monitored period from 1977 to 1980. However, individual colonies were in turmoil: of the original 883 colonies, 315 were killed outright and 499 suffered partial colony mortality (injury) at least once during the 3 yr. Partial mortality generated an additional 189 colonies by fission, while larval recruitment added another 201, and fusion subtracted 40 colonies. The net result was a decrease of < 10% in number of colonies. There was considerable variation among years and sites in measured life history parameters, as well as striking differences between species. The most stable populations were M. annularis and A. lamarcki, followed by P. astreoides, A. agaricites, and L. cucullata. Rates of partial- and whole-colony mortality were strongly dependent on colony size for all species. Typically, small colonies either were unharmed, or were killed outright, while most large colonies survived but were injured each year, often by extensive amounts. The amount of tissue lost from a population through injuries was usually much greater than through the death of whole colonies, even in a year which included a major winter storm. Frequently, large corals were split asunder by partial mortality to produce several daughter colonies, which presumably were of identical genotype. Therefore counts of physically separate colonies exceeded the number of genetically distinct individuals (genets), by at least 20%. Individual genets, measured as the lateral extent of known daughter colonies, were frequently up to 5 m across, and for M. annularis and A. lamarcki were certainly several centuries old. Colony extension rates measured in situ were very weakly dependent on depth from - 10 to -55 m, and were independent of colony size. Small colonies showed much faster relative changes in area, although even the largest corals continued to grow if they avoided major injuries. Within a size-class, the fates of colonies were diverse because of differential rates of growth and shrinkage, so that size was a very poor indicator of age. Differences in the life history and "mobility" between species are reflected in the taxonomic and morphological composition of coral communities over the reef. Shallow-water assemblages of foliaceous corals are composed of more dynamic, delicately built species, while many deeper water communities are dominated by slower growing, robust species. Ironically, disturbance on coral reefs often seems to favor the organisms most vulnerable to damage.

Item ID: 25770
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1557-7015
Keywords: clones; coral reefs; demography; disturbance; fission; fusion; genet; historical effects; life histories; module; partial mortality; population dynamics
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2013 04:30
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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