Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date

4-29-2010

Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Vladimir N. Kosmynin

Third Advisor

Alison Moulding

Fourth Advisor

Richard Spieler

Abstract

With increasing coastal development along southeastern Florida, nearshore coral reef communities are at an increased risk from anthropogenic impacts. Impact minimization and mitigation efforts associated with permitted coastal construction activities generally exclude nearshore small (< 10 cm diameter) Siderastrea siderea colonies from required coral transplantation due to an assumed high colony mortality associated with transplanting small stony corals. This study evaluated the efficacy of transplanting these small colonies by monitoring survival, growth, and zooxanthellae density post transplantation to an offshore reef area. Unexpected observations of parrotfish predation on the newly transplanted corals were made within the first 24 hours. Within 2 weeks, 94% of the transplants were affected and exhibited recent parrotfish grazing scars. A duplicate transplantation attempt was made at an alternate offshore reef area; however similar results were produced. Due to the high extent of colony tissue loss caused by parrotfish, the initial transplantation effort was repeated with the addition of partial cages to exclude large parrotfish. Zooxanthellae density analysis of the caged colonies revealed an adaptive capability of S. siderea to transplantation as one year post-transplantation, algal densities of the transplanted colonies reflected those of surrounding in situ colonies.

A second component of this study investigated if transplantation alone was a direct cause for high predation by examining predation intensity and long-term survival for both transplanted and undisturbed small S. siderea colonies, as well as transplanted Dichocoenia stokesii and Porites porites colonies. Siderastrea siderea colonies were collected from areas surrounding the offshore transplant site and given various stress levels prior to being attached into the transplant grid inter-mixed with colonies transplanted from the shallow nearshore site. All colonies in the transplant grid were placed randomly to eliminate spatial bias. Some nearshore S. siderea transplants were partially caged for 80 days to provide a moderate acclimation period. Many non-caged transplanted colonies suffered some degree of parrotfish predation within 1 week post-transplantation, suggesting that transplantation alone did increase corals susceptibility to predation. However, predation intensity was significantly higher on S. siderea transplanted from nearshore than all in-site transplanted and undisturbed S. siderea colonies from the offshore transplant area. Despite minor parrotfish predation on the offshore in-site transplanted colonies, many displayed long term growth and survival. Partial cages were successful in excluding large parrotfish; however once removed, predation intensity was similar to the non-caged nearshore transplants. Predation on the transplants was selective across both species and place of origin. These results suggest that parrotfish differentiated between transplanted colonies and preferred nearshore S. siderea and P. porites transplants. Findings in this study may aid southeastern Florida resource managers as transplantation activities are frequently utilized due to coastal construction and vessel groundings. The impact of parrotfish corallivory on coral growth and survival should be of higher regard in the light of increasing threats to coral reefs.

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