Capstone Title

Implications of Size and Age in Massive Scleractinian Coral Growth Assessment

Defense Date

12-2014

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Kevin P. Helmle

Second Advisor

Richard E. Dodge

Abstract

Massive, reef-building corals are key species on tropical reefs. Coral monitoring and management efforts can include focus on two key growth parameters of coral colonies: colony size and age, to determine both reef health and valuation. The relationship between the size and age of a scleractinian coral colony is still not well understood. This is due to unique growth processes including, partial mortality, fragmentation, fission, fusion and morphological plasticity, all of which effect the size of a colony independent of age. This leads to a potentially decoupling the relationship between colony age and size. This study is aimed at reviewing previous work along with new findings an included case study, in which 206 whole colonies of two massive coral species were analyzed, determining ages and various size parameters in order to determine relationships between size and age for the colonies examined. Results of both the comprehensive literature review and the case study provide an improved understanding of the complexity of coral growth. The observed relationships between age from size in massive indicator species can provide information on colony age, and population demographics. This is important for conservation and management efforts because age data can provide essential life-history information as well as provide baseline information for restoration efforts.

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