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PeerJ. 2014 Dec 18;2:e699. doi: 10.7717/peerj.699. eCollection 2014.

Response of reef corals on a fringing reef flat to elevated suspended-sediment concentrations: Moloka'i, Hawai'i.

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University of Hawai'i, Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology , Kāneohe, HI , USA.
United States Geological Survey, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center , Santa Cruz, CA , USA.
Hawai'i State Division of Aquatic Resources , Honolulu, HI , USA.


A long-term (10 month exposure) experiment on effects of suspended sediment on the mortality, growth, and recruitment of the reef corals Montipora capitata and Porites compressa was conducted on the shallow reef flat off south Moloka'i, Hawai'i. Corals were grown on wire platforms with attached coral recruitment tiles along a suspended solid concentration (SSC) gradient that ranged from 37 mg l(-1) (inshore) to 3 mg l(-1) (offshore). Natural coral reef development on the reef flat is limited to areas with SSCs less than 10 mg l(-1) as previously suggested in the scientific literature. However, the experimental corals held at much higher levels of turbidity showed surprisingly good survivorship and growth. High SSCs encountered on the reef flat reduced coral recruitment by one to three orders of magnitude compared to other sites throughout Hawai'i. There was a significant correlation between the biomass of macroalgae attached to the wire growth platforms at the end of the experiment and percentage of the corals showing mortality. We conclude that lack of suitable hard substrate, macroalgal competition, and blockage of recruitment on available substratum are major factors accounting for the low natural coral coverage in areas of high turbidity. The direct impact of high turbidity on growth and mortality is of lesser importance.


Coral reefs; Hawaiʻi; Sediment

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