, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 574-581

Spatial heterogeneity of benthic community assemblages with an emphasis on reef algae at French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawai‘ian Islands

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Reefs in tropical atoll systems have historically been described on a geomorphic basis, and segregated into loosely defined fore-reef, back-reef, and lagoonal reef zones. However, recent oceanographic monitoring data have shown that physical factors within a single geomorphic zone can vary significantly, calling into question whether benthic communities within a single zone are biologically similar. To determine the amount of benthic variability that may occur in a geomorphic zone, percent cover of benthic organisms was determined at the species level for 28 sites in three geomorphic zones at French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawai‘ian Islands. Multivariate statistical analyses found most windward fore-reef and back-reef sites to be statistically similar, but considerable variation to exist among sites within calmer lagoonal areas. Surveys revealed macroalgae to dominate over scleractinian coral species at the majority of sites in this healthy, subtropical reef system, although select lagoonal areas were dominated by dense coral communities.

Communicated by Ecological Editor Peter Sale