Variability of size structure and species composition in Caribbean octocoral communities under contrasting environmental conditions
- 263 Downloads
Octocorals have increased in abundance on a number of Caribbean reefs, but this trend has largely been reported with functional group or genus resolution. A species-level analysis of octocoral communities in St. John, US Virgin Islands was conducted to better understand how this taxon will respond to changing conditions based on their synecology at two sites that are 1.5 km apart and differ in physical conditions. East Cabritte is characterized by moderate wave energy, low sedimentation, and clear water, while contrasting conditions characterize Europa Bay. Surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 showed that the abundance and size of adult octocorals differed between sites, with taller and denser communities at East Cabritte than Europa Bay (mean height of 32 versus 20 cm; 18 versus 8 colonies m−2). Octocoral diversity and evenness were similar between sites, although multivariate octocoral community structure differed between sites regardless of whether octocorals were resolved to genera or species. Genus-resolution masked differences between sites for speciose genera like Eunicea. The broad overlap in species representation at both sites suggests that diversity is less responsive than community structure to differing environmental conditions, perhaps because the ecological niches of these species are broad. With 35 octocoral species, and diversity and abundances comparable to those studied > 40 years ago on shallow Caribbean reefs, the dense octocoral communities appearing on some present-day reefs reflect expanded benthic occupancy by a well-known (rather than a novel) community type.
This research was completed under a permit issued by the VI National Park (VIIS-2011-SCI-0016). Special thanks to W. Goldberg for providing access to the raw data from his studies. We are grateful to E. A. Lenz, A. Ellis and J. Smolenski for analysis of photoquadrats for soft corals, R. Boulon, C. S. Rogers, S. Prosterman, and V. Powell for local support, and the staff of the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station for making our visits productive and enjoyable. This is contribution number 262 of the marine biology program of California State University, Northridge.
This study was funded by the US National Science Foundation (Grant Numbers DEB 08-41441, DEB 13-50146, OCE 13-32915).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
- Alcolado PM, García-Parrado P, Hernández-Muñoz D (2008) Estructura y composición de las comunidades de gorgonias de los arrecifes del archipiélago Sabana-Camaguey, Cuba: connectividad y factores determinantes. Bol Invest Mar Cost 37:9–27Google Scholar
- Anderson MJ (2001) A new method for non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance. Aust Ecol 26:32–46Google Scholar
- Bak RPM (1975) Ecological aspects of the distribution of reef corals in the Netherlands Antilles. Bijdrag Dierk 45:181–190Google Scholar
- Bayer FM (1961) The shallow-water Octocorallia of the West Indian region. Stud Fauna Curaçao Other Caribb Isl 12:1–373Google Scholar
- Birkeland C, Gregory B (1975) Foraging behavior and rates of feeding of the gastropod, Cyphoma gibbosum. Nat Hist Mus Los Angel Cty Sci Bull 20:57–67Google Scholar
- Diaz MC, Rützler K (2001) Sponges: an essential component of Caribbean coral reefs. Bull Mar Sci 69:535–546Google Scholar
- Gattuso JP, Magnan A, Billé R, Cheung WWL, Howes EL, Joos F, Allemand D, Bopp SR, Cooley CM, Eakin M, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Kelly RP, Pörtner HO, Rogers AD, Sumaila UR, Treyer S, Turley C (2015) Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios. Science 349:4722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Goldberg W (1973) The ecology of the coral-octocoral communities off the southeast Florida coast: geomorphology, species composition and zonation. Bull Mar Sci 23:465–488Google Scholar
- Goreau TF, Wells JW (1967) The shallow-water Scleractinia of Jamaica: revised list of species and their vertical distribution range. Bull Mar Sci 17:442–453Google Scholar
- Grigg RW (1965) Ecological studies of black coral in Hawaii. Pac Sci 19:244–260Google Scholar
- Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, Gomez E, Harvell CD, Sale PF, Edwards AJM, Caldeira K, Knowlton N, Eakin CM, Iglesias-Prieto R, Muthiga N, Bradbury RH, Dubi A, Hatziolos ME (2007) Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318:1737–1742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Jackson JBC, Donovan MK, Cramer KL, Lam VV (eds) (2014) Status and trends of Caribbean coral reefs: 1970–2012. Global coral reef monitoring network, IUCN, Gland, 304 ppGoogle Scholar
- Kinzie RA III (1970) The ecology of Gorgonian (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) of Discovery Bay. Dissertation, Yale UniversityGoogle Scholar
- Kinzie RA III (1973) The Zonation of West Indian Gorgonians. Bull Mar Sci 23:93–155Google Scholar
- Oksanen JF, Blanchet G, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin PR, O’Hara RB, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Henry M, Stevens H, Wagner H (2015) Vegan: community ecology Package. R package version 2.3-0. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=vegan. Accessed 1 May 2017
- Opresko DM (1973) Abundance and distribution of shallow water gorgonians in the area of Miami, Florida. Bull Mar Sci 23:535–558Google Scholar
- R Development Core Team (2008) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, http://www.R-project.org. Accessed 1 May 2017
- Reiswig HM (1973) Coral reef project—papers in memory of Dr. Thomas F. Goreau. 8. Population dynamics of three Jamaican Demospongiae. Bull Mar Sci 23:191–226Google Scholar
- Rogers CS, Miller J (2001) Coral bleaching, hurricane damage, and benthic cover on coral reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands: a comparison of surveys with the chain transect method and videography. Bull Mar Sci 69:459–470Google Scholar
- Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry: the principles of statistics in biological research. W. H. Freeman and Co., New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Smith GW, Ives ID, Nagelkerken IA, Ritchie KB (1996) Aspergillosis associated with Caribbean sea fan mortalities. Nature 382–487Google Scholar
- Yoshioka PM (1996) Variable recruitment and its effects on the population and community structure of shallow-water gorgonians. Bull Mar Sci 59:433–443Google Scholar
- Yoshioka PM, Yoshioka BB (1987) Variable effects of hurricane David on the shallow water gorgonians of Puerto Rico. Bull Mar Sci 40:132–144Google Scholar