A high-latitude coral community with an uncertain future: Stetson Bank, northwestern Gulf of Mexico

DeBose, J.L., Nuttall, M.F., Hickerson, E.L., and Schmahl, G.P. (2013) A high-latitude coral community with an uncertain future: Stetson Bank, northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Coral Reefs, 32 (1). pp. 225-267.

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Abstract

Limited data exist that detail trends in benthic community composition of high-latitude coral communities. As anthropogenic stressors are projected to increase in number and intensity, long-term monitoring datasets are essential to understanding community stability and ecosystem resilience. In 1993, a long-term monitoring program was initiated at Stetson Bank, in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the course of this monitoring, a major shift in community structure occurred, in which the coral-sponge community was replaced by an algal-dominated community. During the initial years of this study, the coral community at Stetson Bank was relatively stable. Beginning in the late 1990s, sponge cover began a steady decline from over 30 % to less than 25 %. Then, in 2005, the benthic community underwent a further significant change when living coral cover declined from 30 % to less than 8 % and sponges declined to less than 20 % benthic cover. This abrupt shift corresponded with a Caribbean-wide bleaching event in 2005 that caused major mortality of Stetson Bank corals. Previous bleaching events at Stetson Bank did not result in wide-scale coral mortality. Several environmental parameters may have contributed to the rapid decline in this benthic community. We suggest that the combined effects of coastal runoff and elevated temperatures contributed to the observed shift. We present an analysis of 15 years of monitoring data spanning from 1993 to 2008; this dataset provides both a biological baseline and a multiyear trend analysis of the community structure for a high-latitude coral-sponge community in the face of changing climatic conditions.

Item ID: 26984
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: high-latitude reef, Millepora, coral bleaching, phase shift, Stetson Bank, Gulf of Mexico
ISSN: 1432-0975
Date Deposited: 20 May 2013 06:42
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 50%
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