Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

Environmental effects on coral growth and recruitment in the Caribbean

M. James C. Crabbea1 c1

a1 Institute for Research in the Applied Natural Sciences, Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science, University of Bedfordshire, Park Square, Luton, LU1 3JU, UK

Abstract

Knowledge about factors that are important in coral reef growth help us to understand how reef ecosystems react following major anthropogenic and environmental disturbances. In addition, they may help the industry understand how aquarists can improve the health of their corals. I have studied environmental and climate effects on corals on fringing reefs in Jamaica. Radial growth rates (mm/yr) of non-branching corals calculated on an annual basis from 2000–2008 showed few significant differences either spatially or temporally along the north coast, although growth rates tended to be higher on reefs of higher rugosity and lower macroalgal cover. I have also reconstructed recruitment patterns, using growth modelling, for non-branching corals at sites on the north coast of Jamaica near Discovery Bay, and near Kingston Harbour, on the south coast. For all the sites, recruitment of non-branching corals was lowered due to hurricanes or severe storms. For 1560 non-branching corals at sites along the north coast of Jamaica, from Rio Bueno to Pear Tree, there was a significant difference in estimated coral recruitment in years when there were no storms or hurricanes by comparison to years when storms and hurricanes impacted the area. For 347 non-branching corals at sites in the Port Royal Cays on the south coast, there was a significant difference in estimated coral recruitment in years when there were no storms or hurricanes by comparison to years when storms and hurricanes impacted the area. Interestingly, recruitment of Siderastrea siderea on to the side of the ship channel at Rackham's Cay (~100 m from the path taken by large ships) outside Kingston Harbour had been consistent since its construction. These findings have important implications for better understanding the impacts of tropical storms on coral reefs and for aquarists to better maintain coral reef species in artificial environments.

(Received December 21 2010)

(Accepted October 19 2011)

(Online publication December 06 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: M.J.C. Crabbe, Institute for Research in the Applied Natural Sciences, Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science, University of Bedfordshire, Park Square, Luton, LU1 3JU, UK email: james.crabbe@beds.ac.uk