HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.

Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Bernhard Riegl

Second Advisor

Andrew Rogerson

Third Advisor

Roy Houston


Long term monitoring of coral reefs on the northwest coast of Roatán, Honduras, has documented significant changes in coral cover over a seven-year period. Twenty photographic quadrats were permanently installed at approximately 12 m depth at each of three study sites located on the northwest coast of Roatán. Photographs were taken at six or twelve month intervals from 1996 through 2003. This observation period included a massive bleaching event which began in late-September of 1998, and Hurricane Mitch which struck in October of the same year. A measurement of projected surface area (PSA, cm2) was used to estimate total coral coverage. Changes in colony number, percent cover, species diversity and recruitment of all scleractinian corals were monitored within the quadrats. During the seven-year period, living coral cover decreased significantly from 30-34% to 17-20%. This represents net losses ranging between 32% and 50%. The greatest loss occurred in the year following the bleaching event and Hurricane Mitch and was largely due to the decline of the dominant reef building species Montastrea annularis, M. faveolata, and M. franksi. These three species accounted for 56% of total hard coral cover in 1996 and only 32% at the conclusion of the observation period. A sharp reduction in the total number of living colonies in the quadrats was observed with 217 of the 532 original colonies (41%) suffering complete mortality. While 117 coral recruits were identified during this period, recruitment mortality was high (40%) with only two cases of the massive frame building Montastrea species recruiting into the photostations. A combination of at least three factors have contributed to changes in the benthic community observed during this investigation: (1) the massive coral bleaching event in the fall of 1998 which disproportionately affected Montastrea spp.; (2) a category 5 hurricane; and (3) increased anthropogenic stress in the form of sedimentation and nutrient enrichment as the result of new and unregulated development.

To access this thesis/dissertation you must have a valid nova.edu OR mynsu.nova.edu email address and create an account for NSUWorks.

Free My Thesis

If you are the author of this work and would like to grant permission to make it openly accessible to all, please click the Free My Thesis button.

  Link to NovaCat