HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Bernhard M. Riegl

Second Advisor

Samuel J. Purkis

Third Advisor

Evie Wieters


This study analyzes data acquired in French Polynesia in the Pacific and The Bahamas (Atlantic), both oceans affected by recent, well documented and sequential disturbances. For the purposes of this study, a disturbance is defined as a perturbation of environmental, physical or biological conditions that causes a distinct change in the ecosystem. After several decades of coral bleaching events, biological change, and anthropogenic impacts, rapid assessments of the coral community were accomplished by collecting photo-transects across the reefs to extract size structure of the corals, percent live tissue cover and perform a faunal evaluation. Cluster analyses and spatial autocorrelation tests were done to examine the community structure and dynamics at both locations. All multivariate analyses pointed to a disturbed ecosystem and the lack of spatial correlation indicated the impact of a local disturbance over that of a regional event. In assessing the spatial coral community structure, different responses to large versus small scales of disturbance were found. This emphasizes the importance of tailoring management of coral reefs to specific impacts. These two distinct regions were shown to have correlated spatial response patterns to sequential disturbances, supporting the idea of community pattern signatures for different scales of disturbance and the need for an adjustment in management protocols.

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