Changes in octocoral communities and benthic cover along a water quality gradient in the reefs of Hong Kong.
ABSTRACT Cover of the main reef benthic groups, and abundances and taxonomic richness of octocorals were surveyed in the reefs of Hong Kong, and related to spatial and water quality gradients. Nutrient and particle concentrations are high throughout the area, with concentrations declining from the south towards the north-eastern region. Regression tree analyses showed that hard coral cover was most strongly related to water clarity, that macroalgal cover was highest in areas with high wave action and high water clarity, and that crustose coralline algae were negatively related to sedimentation. Octocoral communities (42 species in 23 genera) were dominated by zooxanthellae-free taxa; those few species with zooxanthellae were restricted to reefs with low wave action and high water clarity in the north-eastern region. The water quality gradient spans from conditions that are marginal for zooxanthellate octocorals while still supporting diverse scleractinian communities, towards an estuarine endpoint where zooxanthellate octocorals cease to exist and hard coral communities are reduced to a few resilient colonies. The data suggest that the types, abundances and richness of zooxanthellate octocorals, and the shift from zooxanthellate to azooxanthellate octocoral communities, may act as useful indicators of water clarity in regions where long-term water quality data are unavailable.
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ABSTRACT: Distribution patterns of soft coral genera were examined at 11 reefs situated in a broad transect from inshore to the Coral Sea in the central region of the Great Barrier Reef. Twenty-five genera representing the Orders Alcyonacea and Stolonifera were recorded, and the survey also included one genus of the Order Gorgonacea. Total living soft coral cover is greatest on outershelf reef slopes, and is often less than and inversely related to the cover by stony corals. Soft coral diversity is generally low on reef flats, where soft coral cover is low or nil except in protected, inshore areas. The most diverse assemblages occur on reef slopes in midshelf and outershelf areas, where Efflatounaria and nephtheid genera predominate, and widely distributed alcyoniid genera are common. These richer assemblages are less well represented in the Coral Sea, while innershelf reefs support a less diverse fauna of somewhat different generic composition. Distribution patterns of soft corals across the transect broadly match similar variations in the distributions of stony corals and fishes, inshore reefs being generally depauperate. Such variations across the continental shelf are closely associated with changes in prevailing environmental conditions, but further research will be required to elucidate the effects of environmental parameters on benthic community structure.Coral Reefs 01/1983; 1(4):229-236. · 3.66 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Suspended particulate matter (SPM) strongly alters the trophic environment of photosymbiotic aquatic organisms. At high particles loads, phototrophic energy gains can be diminished due to light absorption by suspended particles, and stress from particle abrasion or deposition on tissues. However, energy gains are enhanced if organisms are able to use SPM as a food source. For photosymbiotic benthic suspension feeders, increases in SPM concentrations may require both phototrophic and heterotrophic acclimation to sustain a positive energy balance. This study provides an experimental analysis of the effects of contrasting light and SPM regimes on the energy budget (scope for growth) of two zooxanthellate corals (Goniastrea retiformis and Porites cylindrica). Using a factorial design in a flow-through tank system, corals were exposed for 2 months to shaded and unshaded conditions (equivalent to 3–4 m depth at 4 and 16 mg dry weight SPM l−1, respectively) and a range of controlled SPM loads with a natural organic content (∼3% w/w). In G. retiformis, rates of particle ingestion were a linear function of SPM concentration within a broad range (1–30 mg dry weight l−1). After 2 months of shading, photosynthetic acclimation was significant in G. retiformis, but did not compensate for the reduced light level, as daily respiration exceeded daily photosynthesis. However, in response to the prolonged shading, G. retiformis more than doubled its rate of particle feeding. At high SPM treatments (16 mg dw l−1), sediment feeding by this species compensated fully for the 35–47% lower phototrophy in the shaded treatment. Due to both photo- and heterotrophic plasticity, G. retiformis gained tissue and skeletal mass at all experimental levels of light and SPM. In contrast, rates of particle intake by P. cylindrica contributed <10% to the energy budget in shaded and <3% in unshaded conditions. Feeding rates of P. cylindrica were half-saturated at ∼3 mg dry weight l−1, and four- to eight-fold lower than those of G. retiformis. Skeletal growth was sustained, but tissue mass and lipid contents declined in shaded and high-SPM treatments, and carbon loss due to shading by SPM was not compensated for by particle feeding. Thus, due to a lack of photo- and heterotrophic plasticity, periods of high turbidity resulted in energy deficiency in P. cylindrica, and high turbidity conditions appeared physiologically unsustainable for this species. This study is the first to show heterotrophic plasticity in a symbiotic coral, and to show that such plasticity can offset stress from high particle loads. It demonstrates that changes in the trophic mode of some coral species are a mechanism for sustaining a positive energy balance in turbid environments, thereby broadening their physiological niche.Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 09/2000; · 2.26 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This study analysed monthly physico-chemical and biological data collected from 18 marine monitoring stations in Victoria Harbour and its vicinity in Hong Kong, from 1988 to 1996. Cluster analysis based on all water quality parameters measured shows that the 18 monitoring stations can be grouped into four clusters: Cluster I consists of stations located in the Harbour proper; Cluster II consists of stations located west of the Harbour and along the Rambler Channel; Cluster III consists of stations located east of the Harbour near Junk Bay and Cluster IV consists of stations located west of the Harbour and near the Ma Wan, Kap Shui Mun and Western Fairways. Factor analysis shows high positive loadings for nutrients in the first two factors of the four clusters. This suggests that effluents from the 11 outfalls of sewage screening plants influence the water quality of Victoria Harbour and its vicinity. Other factors such as storm water runoff, marine traffic, construction and industrial activities and the Pearl River discharges also appear to play an important role in determining local water quality. Five stations located along an east–west transect across the Harbour were selected for trend analysis. The three stations located in the Harbour exhibit an increasing trend for temperature and levels of total phosphorus (TP), ortho-phosphate phosphorous (PO4-P) and faecal bacteria and a decreasing trend for pH and levels of total nitrogen (TN), total kjeldahl-nitrogen (TKN), 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and chlorophyll a. For the station located east of the Harbour, an increasing trend is observed for levels of TP, PO4-P, but no decreasing trend in TN and TKN is detected. For the station located west of the Harbour, no decreasing trend in TN, TKN and chlorophyll a is observed. Changes in levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in Victoria Harbour and the immediate vicinity have led to significant increases in the ratios of Total Silica (TSi) to TN, as well as a decrease in TN to TP and TSi to TP in most stations. Results of the present study show that Victoria Harbour and its immediate vicinity remain polluted.Marine Pollution Bulletin - MAR POLLUT BULL. 01/1999; 39(1):315-325.