HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Joana Figueiredo

Second Advisor

Bernhard Riegl

Third Advisor

Brian K. Walker


Sedimentation and ocean warming are two major anthropogenic stressors that directly affect coral recruitment and recovery. Many coral-dominated reefs have undergone phase shifts becoming macroalgae-dominated because of the coral population’s inability to tolerate these increasing stressors. Predicting these phase shifts requires a determination of the relative susceptibility of coral and macroalgae to these stressors. The objective of this study was to quantitatively assess the synergistic effects of sedimentation and elevated temperature on the survival and growth of Montastraea cavernosa newly settled coral juveniles, and fragments of the macroalgae, Dictyota ciliolata. A crossed experimental design tested the two temperatures and four sedimentation levels. After 12 weeks, a 2°C increase in temperature did not significantly affect survival of the M. cavernosa juveniles or fragments of D. ciliolata. Montastraea cavernosa juvenile survival was negatively affected by a decrease in sediment. Dictyota ciliolata survival was highly sensitive to the increase in sedimentation. The survival and growth of both species appeared to be susceptible to an increase in sedimentation, but in opposite ways. This study demonstrates that both M. cavernosa juveniles and D. ciliolata fragments may be more vulnerable to light caused by changes in turbidity rather than temperature.