Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date

10-2006

Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Bernhard M. Riegl

Second Advisor

Samuel J. Purkis

Third Advisor

Emily Schmitt

Abstract

Increased pressure from natural and anthropogenic disturbances on coral reef ecosystems elevates the importance of an ecological assessment prior to further degradation. Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago, poses an interesting study site as its reefs, while existing in an environment that is increasingly degraded and threatened, are considered the most diverse in the Indian Ocean. With the utilization of both digital photograph transect assessment of benthic habitat composition and the development of a bathymetric digital elevation model (DEM), the reef conditions at the study site were surveyed in order to describe the coarse features of community structure. The coral community structure in northern Diego Garcia is largely driven by the fecundity of the dominant coral species present in the system as a wide variability in the coral reef ecosystem environment encourages a wide variability in coral cover. Acropora spp. at the sites in northern Diego Garcia gained their competitive advantage over the other genera with successive successful reproductive and recruitment events through initial investment in growth to a highly fecund and more stable size. Additional fieldwork may further sharpen predictions on acroporid dominance for the area but through this study, a greater comprehension of the physical environment as well as the major control on the nature of the northern Diego Garcia reef development has been recognized.

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