, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 389-395

Short-term growth measurements of corals using an accurate buoyant weighing technique

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Abstract

An accurate method for determining the growth rates of the skeleton of isolated branch tips (nubbins) of corals over intervals of less than 24 h is described. The skeletal weight of the coral was estimated from its buoyant weight in seawater whose density had been accurately determined. The coral tissues accounted for between 1 and 5% of the total buoyant weight in Pocillopora verrucosa and Acropora humilis with differing relative tissue biomass. After correcting for tissue buoyant weight, predictions of skeletal weight were accurate to within 1%. The method was used to estimate the growth of sample nubbins of Porites porites of similar diameter, in 2 m of water at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Since growth of these branch tips is apical, growth rate could be expressed without correction for the size. The mean 24 h skeletal growth rate ranged between 40 and 47 mg. Differences could be measured between day-time and night-time growth, the day: night ratio being 3.7. The method also showed that P. porites virtually ceases calcification during the 4 to 5 d periods that it becomes enclosed in a mucus tunic. Nubbins of P. porites attached to the reef at different locations showed clear differences in growth rate with depth, and between clear and turbid water sites. The growth rate of nubbins was compared with that of branch tips of whole corals by measuring the linear extension after staining with Alizarin Red S. After 3 1/2 mo, the mean linear extension was 4.1 mm in each case, indicating that the growth rate of nubbins is the same as that of branch tips of the whole colony. It is suggested that this buoyant weighing technique will find applications in laboratory experiments with calcification mechanisms and as a bioassay on reefs exposed to environmental stress.

Contribution No. 464 of the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory
Communicated by J. Mauchline, Oban