The Lagoon at Caroline/Millennium Atoll, Republic of Kiribati: Natural History of a Nearly Pristine Ecosystem
ABSTRACT A series of surveys were carried out to characterize the physical and biological parameters of the Millennium Atoll lagoon during a research expedition in April of 2009. Millennium is a remote coral atoll in the Central Pacific belonging to the Republic of Kiribati, and a member of the Southern Line Islands chain. The atoll is among the few remaining coral reef ecosystems that are relatively pristine. The lagoon is highly enclosed, and was characterized by reticulate patch and line reefs throughout the center of the lagoon as well as perimeter reefs around the rim of the atoll. The depth reached a maximum of 33.3 m in the central region of the lagoon, and averaged between 8.8 and 13.7 m in most of the pools. The deepest areas were found to harbor large platforms of Favia matthaii, which presumably provided a base upon which the dominant corals (Acropora spp.) grew to form the reticulate reef structure. The benthic algal communities consisted mainly of crustose coralline algae (CCA), microfilamentous turf algae and isolated patches of Halimeda spp. and Caulerpa spp. Fish species richness in the lagoon was half of that observed on the adjacent fore reef. The lagoon is likely an important nursery habitat for a number of important fisheries species including the blacktip reef shark and Napoleon wrasse, which are heavily exploited elsewhere around the world but were common in the lagoon at Millennium. The lagoon also supports an abundance of giant clams (Tridacna maxima). Millennium lagoon provides an excellent reference of a relatively undisturbed coral atoll. As with most coral reefs around the world, the lagoon communities of Millennium may be threatened by climate change and associated warming, acidification and sea level rise, as well as sporadic local resource exploitation which is difficult to monitor and enforce because of the atoll's remote location. While the remote nature of Millennium has allowed it to remain one of the few nearly pristine coral reef ecosystems in the world, it is imperative that this ecosystem receives protection so that it may survive for future generations.
SourceAvailable from: Gareth J Williams[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The lagoon at Palmyra Atoll in the central Pacific was subject to major military modifications during WWII and now the dominant fauna on the lagoon's hard substrate are sponges, not corals. In this study, we quantified the physical and biological factors explaining the variation in sponge distribution patterns across 11 sites to determine the potential for the sponges in the lagoon at Palmyra to invade the surrounding reef systems. Significant differences in sponge assemblages were found among all but three sites. For all the models we examined the strongest environmental relationships were found for variables related to sedimentation/turbidity and food/habitat availability. Our findings suggest that the sponges in Palmyra's lagoon are likely to be restricted to this habitat type where they are associated with conditions resulting from the earlier heavy disturbance and are unlikely to spread to the outer reef environments unless there is a dramatic decline in environmental quality.Marine Pollution Bulletin 11/2012; DOI:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.08.017 · 2.79 Impact Factor
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) have become a major concern in the western Attantie and Caribbean since their introduction in the 1980s. Invasive lionfish can reach very high population densities on coral reefs in their invaded range, yet there are few data from their native range in the Indo-Pacific for comparison. We compiled data on the geographical distribution and density of Indo-Pacific lionfishes in their native ranges from published and unpublished underwater visual censuses and field collections. We found that lionfish in their native Indo-Pacific range are unevenly distributed, with higher densities in the Indian Ocean than in the Pacific. Lionfish densities increase significantly with increasing latitude, and are significantly higher in continental areas than around islands. In the Indo-Pacific, lionfishes are found not only on reefs but also on soft bottoms and in nearshore habitats such as seagrass beds and mangroves, and near estuaries. Native lionfish can be found at depths greater than 75 m. Because lionfish can be cryptic and secretive, we estimate that only similar to 1/8 of Indo-Pacific lionfishes are detected during general underwater visual censuses. In the Pacific Ocean, the relative abundance of lionfish in the catch of reef-fish larvae is of the same order of magnitude as the relative abundance of adult lionfish within reef fish assemblages. Overall the observed densities of lionfishes in the Indo-Pacific are much lower (max. 26.3 fish ha(-1)) than the densities reported in their invaded Atlantic range (max. 400 fish ha(-1)). We found no effects of fishing or pollution on the densities of lionfishes.Marine Ecology Progress Series 02/2012; 446:189-205. DOI:10.3354/meps09442 · 2.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: We explore impacts on pristine atolls subjected to anthropogenic near-field (human habitation) and far-field (climate and environmental change) pressure. Using literature data of human impacts on reefs, we parameterize forecast models to evaluate trajectories in coral cover under impact scenarios that primarily act via recruitment and increased mortality of larger corals. From surveys across the Chagos, we investigate the regeneration dynamics of coral populations distant from human habitation after natural disturbances. Using a size-based mathematical model based on a time-series of coral community and population data from 1999-2006, we provide hind- and forecast data for coral population dynamics within lagoons and on ocean-facing reefs verified against monitoring from 1979-2009. Environmental data (currents, temperatures) were used for calibration. The coral community was simplified into growth typologies: branching and encrusting, arboresent and massive corals. Community patterns observed in the field were influenced by bleaching-related mortality, most notably in 1998. Survival had been highest in deep lagoonal settings, which suggests a refuge. Recruitment levels were higher in lagoons than on ocean-facing reefs. When adding stress by direct human pressure, climate and environmental change as increased disturbance frequency and modified recruitment and mortality levels (due to eutrophication, overfishing, pollution, heat, acidification, etc), models suggest steep declines in coral populations and loss of community diversification among habitats. We found it likely that degradation of lagoonal coral populations would impact regeneration potential of all coral populations, also on ocean-facing reefs, thus decreasing reef resilience on the entire atoll.PLoS ONE 06/2012; 7(6):e36921. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0036921 · 3.53 Impact Factor