A study of succession in algal communities on coral reefs

The transition in the Caribbean Sea from coral dominated reefs to algal dominated reefs poses a serious risk to the current existing community. Current research suggests that algal communities will follow a predictable pattern of growth and succession based on the environmental conditions of the community. Depth of the coral head hosting the community and location on the coral head may have a role in succession. This study was conducted on a fringing reef on the leeward side of the island of Bonaire, DC in March of 2014. Algal communities were sampled at two locations on coral heads: just below the livecoral/dead coral interface and between 10 and 30 cm below the first sample. Analysis of genera richness and mass percent of algal divisions were not found to be correlated with depth for all algal divisions. However, richness of Rhodophyta genera was shown to be different between sampling locations on the same coral head and mass percent of Chlorophyta genera was shown to be negatively correlated with distance between sampling locations. The lack of variation found among many of the samples suggests that depth and sampling location on a coral head are largely unimportant in determining the make-up of an algal community, except the aforementioned relationships. Within the framework of creating a predictive model for algal succession, depth and community location on the coral head are components, but more work is needed. The creation of a predictive model will let reef managers forecast future threats and mitigate potential catastrophes.

This student research was retrieved from Physis: Journal of Marine Science XV (Spring 2014)19: 15-20 from CIEE Bonaire.

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