, Volume 135, Issue 3, pp 437-449

Variability of stable isotopes and maximum linear extension in reef-coral skeletons at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

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Abstract

Stable-isotope and growth records of coral skeletons are often used to reconstruct tropical paleoclimate, yet few surveys have systematically examined the natural variability in coral skeletal 13C, 18O and maximum linear skeletal extension (MLSE) across depth. Here, interspecific, intraspecific, and geographical variations in coral skeletal 13C, 18O, and MLSE were examined in the corals Porites compressa, P. lobata, and Montipora verrucosa grown at 1.7, 5.0, and 8.3 m depth from August 1996 to March 1997 at The Point Reef and Patch Reef #41 field sites in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Coral skeletal 13C values significantly decreased with depth and differed between species, but did not vary between field sites. 18O values were not significantly different across depth within a species, but did differ among species and field sites. High-resolution analysis of the intra-annual variation in skeletal 13C and 18O in P. compressa at 2.0 m depth confirms that these isotopes reflect changes in solar irradiance and temperature, respectively. Changes in MLSE across depth were consistent within, but highly variable among, species. Peak MLSE occurred at 1.7, 5.0, and 8.3 m for P. lobata, P. compressa, and M. verrucosa, respectively. Such interspecific variation in MLSE patterns may be attributable to one or more of the following: increases in zooplankton in the diet, changes in metabolic processes, or changes in growth form with depth. Overall, these results imply that natural inter- and intraspecific variability in coral skeletal 13C, 18O, and MLSE should be considered when interpreting and comparing coral-based tropical paleoclimate data from various coral species, depths, and field sites.

Received: 6 October 1998 / Accepted: 8 July 1999