, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 1025-1032

Effects of volcanic ash deposits on four functional groups of a coral reef

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The immediate effects of pyroclastic deposits (ash fall) on reef communities after volcanic eruptions on remote tropical islands have never been critically examined. This study discusses findings from an interdisciplinary research expedition to the island of Anatahan (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), 4 months after its first recorded volcanic eruption. Deep ash completely obliterated any trace of reef communities off the northeastern shores of the island; however, reefs in other areas, although still blanketed with ash deposits, fared better. Mean fish biomass recorded around Anatahan after the eruption was 0.22 kg 100 m−2, a value three times lower than at Sarigan, the closest neighbor island. Similarly, average percent cover of live coral (7.9%), crustose coralline red algal (7.7%), and macroalgal (14.3%) populations was 2.3, 1.4, and 3.0 times lower than at Sarigan, respectively.

Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Hugh Sweatman