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Evaluation of Stony Coral Indicators for Coral Reef Management.
FISHER, W. S., L. S. FORE, A. HUTCHINS, R. L. QUARLES, J. G. CAMPBELL, C. LOBUE, AND W. S. DAVIS. Evaluation of Stony Coral Indicators for Coral Reef Management. MARINE POLLUTION BULLETIN. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 56(10):1737-1745, (2008).
Field studies were performed to evaluate biological indicators of coral reef condition as metrics for regulatory monitoring. Indicator values were compared across three different gradients of human disturbance in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Colonies of reef-building stony corals at 57 stations around St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands were characterized by species, size and percentage of living tissue. Taxonomic, biological and physical indicators of coral condition were derived from these measurements and assessed for their response to gradients of human disturbance. The purpose of the study was to identify indicators that could be used for regulatory assessments under authority of the Clean Water Act--this requires that indicators distinguish anthropogenic disturbances from natural variation. Stony coral indicators were tested for correlation with human disturbance across gradients located on three different sides of the island. At the most intensely disturbed location, five of eight primary indicators were highly correlated with distance from the source of disturbance: Coral taxa richness, average colony size, the coefficient of variation of colony size (an indicator of colony size heterogeneity), total topographic coral surface area, and live coral surface area. An additional set of exploratory indicators related to rarity, reproductive and spawning mode, and taxonomic identity were also screened for association with disturbance at the same location. For the other two locations, there were no significant changes in indicator values and therefore no discernible effects of human activity. Coral indicators demonstrated sufficient precision to detect levels of change that would be applicable in a regional-scale regulatory program.