HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Joana Figueiredo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Brian Walker, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D.


Corals are frequently exposed to elevated turbidity and deposited sediment caused from coastal construction, dredging, and/or beach renourishment. This study addresses the effects of turbidity and deposited sediment on the survival and growth of newly settled and 6-week-old Orbicella faveolata recruits and disentangles the effects of turbidity and deposited sediment. We conducted two experiments in which newly settled coral recruits were reared in one of ten different turbidity and deposited sediment treatments for five weeks (0 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 3.4 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 8.2 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 16 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 29.1 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 0 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2, 3.4 NTU/ 27.7 mg cm-2, 8.2 NTU/ 50 mg cm-2, 16 NTU/ 101 mg cm-2, 29.1 NTU/ 220 mg cm-2). The highest turbidity treatment in the absence of deposited sediment (29.1 NTU/ 0 mg cm-2) had the best survival, suggesting that turbidity in the absence of sediment is beneficial to coral recruits, as it decreases harmful light levels. However, when recruits were exposed to both turbidity and deposited sediment, representative of normal coastal construction conditions, high turbidity when coupled with deposited sediment (16 NTU/ 101 mg cm-2 and 29.1 NTU/ 220 mg cm-2) had negative effects on coral recruits. Based on the results from the first experiment, the experiment was repeated with six-week-old symbiotic recruits for two weeks to determine if the sensitivity to light and benefits of high turbidity were related to the presence of symbionts. Six-week-old recruits also had the highest survival in the highest turbidity treatment, suggesting that light sensitivity by coral recruits is not dependent on the presence of symbionts within the first six weeks post-settlement. While the low light associated with turbidity increases recruit survival, turbidity is a proxy for deposited sediment, which has negative effects on coral recruits. Based on the results from this study, regulations should prevent turbidity from exceeding 8.2 NTU to prevent excessive deposited sediment on coral reefs, and its deleterious effects on corals.