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Mar Pollut Bull. 2013 May 15;70(1-2):73-80. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.02.014. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Determining trigger values of suspended sediment for behavioral changes in a coral reef fish.

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  • 1ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.


Sediment from land use increases water turbidity and threatens the health of inshore coral reefs. This study performed experiments with a damselfish, Pomacentrus moluccensis, in four sediment treatments, control (0 mg l⁻¹), 10 mg l⁻¹ (∼1.7 NTU), 20 mg l⁻¹ (∼3.3 NTU) and 30 mg l⁻¹ (∼5 NTU), to determine when sediment triggers a change in habitat use and movement. We reviewed the literature to assess how frequently P. moluccensis would experience sub-optimal sediment conditions on the reef. Preference for live coral declined from 49.4% to 23.3% and movement between habitats declined from 2.1 to 0.4 times between 20 mg l⁻¹ and 30 mg l⁻¹, suggesting a sediment threshold for behavioral changes. Inshore areas of the Great Barrier Reef, P. moluccensis may encounter sub-optimal conditions between 8% and 53% of the time. Changes in these vital processes may have long-term effects on the persistence of populations, particularly as habitat loss on coral reefs increases.

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