Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Use of Skeletal Growth Rates for the Monitoring of the Anthropogenic Impact on Reefs in the Florida Keys

Event Name/Location

International Conference on Scientific Aspects of Coral Reef Assessment, Monitoring, and Restoration

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Coral Reefs, Florida


Scleractinian corals grow by secreting highly porous calcareous skeletons that are annually marked by thickness and organization variations. When revealed through X-radiographic negatives, these bulk density changes of the CaCO3 structure produce distinct patterns of light (high density) and dark (low density) bands. The study of this banding in coral skeletons is termed sclerochronology. These bands can be used to obtain a record of annual growth rate and are analogous to growth rings in trees. Growth rates in turn responds to environmental stress, higher rates occurring during more favorable conditions. However, in order to obtain an idea of the health of a forest or a coral reef using growth rates it is essential to examine a statistically representative number of growth records. The absence of such a statistically representative sample has hindered the application of sclerochronology as a tool for the assessment of environmental conditions. We report growth data from four studies which have been carried out over the past 20 years in the Florida Keys using the coral Montastraea faveolata involving cores collected from over 200 individual colonies. These data allow an assessment of anthropogenic impact upon coral growth rate in the Florida Keys.

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