Limited cross-shelf variation in the growth of three branching corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Burn, Deborah, Pratchett, Morgan S., Heron, Scott F., Thompson, Cassandra A., Pratchett, Deborah J., and Hoey, Andrew S. (2018) Limited cross-shelf variation in the growth of three branching corals on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Diversity, 10 (4). 122.

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Pronounced differences exist in the biodiversity and structure of coral reef assemblages with increasing distance from shore, which may be expected given marked cross-shelf gradients in environmental conditions. Cross-shelf variation in the abundance of coral reef organisms is likely to be caused, at least in part, by differences in demography (e.g., growth and survival), though this has rarely been tested. This study quantified growth of three distinct branching coral taxa (Acropora nasuta, Pocillopora spp. and Stylophora pistillata) at six locations on Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR), encompassing inshore, mid-shelf and outer-shelf reefs. Replicate colonies (0–15 colonies per species, per reef) were stained using Alizarin Red in December 2015 and retrieved one year later to quantify linear extension on replicate branches for each colony. Annual linear extension varied within and among coral taxa, with pronounced differences among reefs. For A. nasuta. and S. pistillata, growth rates were highest at one of the inshore reefs, Orpheus Island. However, inter-reef differences in linear extension were not explained by shelf position. Based on differences in skeletal density, which did vary according to shelf position, branching corals at the inshore sites may actually have higher rates of calcification compared to conspecifics on mid-and outer-shelf reefs. This study shows that growth of branching corals is not lower at inshore sites (and perhaps even higher) compared to sites at mid-shelf and outer reefs, despite generally higher levels of sedimentation and turbidity.

Item ID: 56992
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1424-2818
Keywords: annual linear extension, calcification, coral reefs, environmental gradients, growth, turbidity
Copyright Information: © 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (JCU), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE14010002, ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE130100688, NOAA grant NA14NES4320003
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019 07:30
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
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