Coral Reefs

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 416–426 | Cite as

Record of natural and anthropogenic changes in reef environments (Barbados West Indies) using laser ablation ICP-MS and sclerochronology on coral cores



Coral growth rate can be affected by environmental parameters such as seawater temperature, depth, and light intensity. The natural reef environment is also disturbed by human influences such as anthropogenic pollutants, which in Barbados are released close to the reefs. Here we describe a relatively new method of assessing the history of pollution and explain how these effects have influenced the coral communities off the west coast of Barbados. We evaluate the relative impact of both anthropogenic pollutants and natural stresses. Sclerochronology documents framework and skeletal growth rate and records pollution history (recorded as reduced growth) for a suite of sampled Montastraea annularis coral cores. X-radiography shows annual growth band patterns of the corals extending back over several decades and indicates significantly lower growth rate in polluted sites. Results using laser-ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) on the whole sample (aragonite, organic matter, trapped particulate matter, etc.), have shown contrasting concentrations of the trace elements (Cu, Sn, Zn, and Pb) between corals at different locations and within a single coral. Deepwater corals 7 km apart, record different levels of Pb and Sn, suggesting that a current transported the metal pollution in the water. In addition, the 1995 hurricanes are associated with anomalous values for Sn and Cu from most sites. These are believed to result from dispersion of nearshore polluted water. We compared the concentrations of trace elements in the coral growth of particular years to those in the relevant contemporaneous seawater. Mean values for the concentration factor in the coral, relative to the water, ranged from 10 for Cu and Ni to 2.4 and 0.7 for Cd and Zn, respectively. Although the uncertainties are large (60–80%), the coral record enabled us to demonstrate the possibility of calculating a history of seawater pollution for these elements from the 1940s to 1997. Our values were much higher than those obtained from analysis of carefully cleaned coral aragonite; they demonstrate the incorporation of more contamination including that from particulate material as well as dissolved metals.


Sclerochronology Pollution history Barbados ICPMS 



We thank Kym Jarvis at NERC ICP-MS Facility Kingston University, UK, for invaluable guidance with the LA-ICP-MS aspects of the project, and the UK Natural Environment Research Council, which supported the costs of analyses at the NERC ICPMS Facility (Project Nos. ICP/144/1198 and ICP/172/0900). We gratefully acknowledge the help of the University of the West Indies in Barbados, which provided logistical assistance and kindly lent coral coring equipment. We are grateful to Malcolm McCulloch and other anonymous referees for constructive comments and to Andréa Grotolli and Peter Swart for solicitous editing, which improved the quality of the paper. This paper is PRIS contribution No. 837.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Postgraduate Research Institute for SedimentologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUK

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