Hermatypic scleractinian corals of the Southeastern Bahamas: A comparison to western Atlantic reef systems

M. Chiappone, K. M. Sullivan, C. Lott

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Abstract

A reconnaissance survey was conducted at 18 reef sites spanning 250 km2 on the windward margin of the Caicos Bank from June to August, 1991. Five main reef types were identified from aerial imagery on the eastern Caicos Bank: patch reefs, transitional reefs, high-relief spur and groove, low-relief spur and groove, and fore reef escarpment. Reef types differed in colony density and coral coverage, although most sites were dominated by Montastraea annularis (Ellis and Solander), M. cavernosa (Linnaeus), Porites astreoides Lesueur, P. porties (Pallas), Siderastrea siderea (Ellis and Solander), and Agaricia agaricites (Linnaeus). Many of these species are dominant in Caribbean reef systems. Surveys along a north to south transect on the windward margin of the Caicos Bank revealed that corals in patch reefs and spur and groove reefs decreased in colony abundance and coverage. This gradient may be related to differences in wave energy among reefs adjacent to islands in the north and the relatively exposed reefs on the southeastern margin of the bank. Overall, reefs on the eastern Caicos Bank had lower coral cover (< 15%) than in other western Atlantic reef systems. A north to south transect along the eastern side of the bank suggests that reef distribution and composition reflects the pattern of wave energy and tidal transport from the bank to oceanic waters. Sites adjacent to islands generally had greater species richness, density, and coverage of corals. Thirty-three hermatypic scleractinian coral species were recorded among 13 reef sites on the eastern Caicos Bank. The coral assemblage observed in the Turks and Caicos is similar to coral species lists compiled from some areas in the Bahamian archipelago. Species lists from historical surveys of western Atlantic reefs were compiled for 20 locations in the biogeographic province. Similarity among 13 locations based on coral species presence-absence was high (≥ 70%), indicating a relatively homogenous faunal composition within the central Caribbean and more northerly Bahamian archipelago. Outlying sites, such as the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda, Trinidad, and Brazil, had fewer species presumably due to environmental factors, such as lower temperature minima, sedimentation, and circulation patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCaribbean Journal of Science
Volume32
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 1996

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