Advertisement

Coral Reefs

, 30:1051 | Cite as

Drivers of region-wide declines in architectural complexity on Caribbean reefs

  • Lorenzo Alvarez-FilipEmail author
  • J. A. Gill
  • N. K. Dulvy
  • A. L. Perry
  • A. R. Watkinson
  • I. M. Côté
Report

Abstract

Severe declines in the cover of live hard coral on reefs have been reported worldwide, and in the Caribbean region, the architectural complexity of coral reefs has also declined markedly. While the drivers of coral cover loss are relatively well understood, little is known about the drivers of regional-scale declines in architectural complexity. We have used a dataset of 49 time series reporting reef architectural complexity to explore the effect of hurricanes, coral bleaching and fishing on Caribbean-wide annual rates of change in reef complexity. Hurricane impacts greatly influence reef complexity, with the most rapid rates of decline in complexity occurring at sites impacted during their survey period, and with lower rates of loss occurring at unimpacted sites. Reef architectural complexity did not change significantly following mass bleaching events (in a time frame of <5 years) or positive thermal anomalies. Although the rates of change in architectural complexity were similar in and out of marine protected areas (MPAs), significant declines in complexity were observed inside but not outside of MPAs, possibly because reductions in fishing can lead to increased bioerosion by herbivores within MPAs. Our findings suggest that major drivers of coral mortality, such as coral bleaching, do not influence reef architectural complexity in the short term (<5 years). Instead, direct physical impacts and reef bioerosion appear to be important drivers of the widespread loss of architecturally complex reefs in the Caribbean.

Keywords

Coral bleaching Drivers of change Environmental change Ecosystem services Habitat complexity Hurricanes Marine reserves Reef degradation 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Peter Edmunds, Renata Goodridge and Hazel Oxenford (CARICOMP Barbados), Francisco Geraldes (Centro de Investigaciones de Biología Marina de la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo and CARICOMP) and Simon Pittman and the NOAA Biogeography Branch for contributing unpublished data, and to Hugh Sweatman and two anonymous referees for insightful comments. This research was founded by the Mexican scholarships from the CONACYT (171864) and SEP to L. A-F. IMC and NKD are supported by Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery grants.

References

  1. Alvarez-Filip L (2010) Habitat complexity in coral reefs: patterns of degradation and consequences for biodiversity. Ph.D. thesis, University of East Anglia, p 124Google Scholar
  2. Alvarez-Filip L, Gil I (2006) Effects of hurricanes Emily and Wilma on coral reefs in Cozumel, Mexico. Coral Reefs 25:583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alvarez-Filip L, Millet-Encalada M, Reyes-Bonilla H (2009a) Impact of hurricanes Emily and Wilma on the coral community of Cozumel Island, Mexico. Bull Mar Sci 84:295–306Google Scholar
  4. Alvarez-Filip L, Dulvy NK, Gill JA, Côté IM, Watkinson AR (2009b) Flattening of Caribbean coral reefs: region-wide declines in architectural complexity. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 276:3019–3025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alvarez-Filip L, Côté IM, Gill JA, Watkinson AR, Dulvy NK (2011) Region-wide temporal and spatial variation in Caribbean reef architecture: is coral cover the whole story? Global Change Biol 17:2470–2477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alvarez-Filip L, Dulvy NK, Côté IM, Watkinson AR, Gill JA (in press) Coral identity underpins reef complexity on Caribbean reefs. Ecol Appl. doi: 10.1890/10-1563.1
  7. Aronson RB, Precht WF (2006) Conservation, precaution, and Caribbean reefs. Coral Reefs 25:441–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baker AC, Glynn PW, Riegl B (2008) Climate change and coral reef bleaching: An ecological assessment of long-term impacts, recovery trends and future outlook. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 80:435–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Balmford A, Green RE, Jenkins M (2003) Measuring the changing state of nature. Trends Ecol Evol 18:326–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baron RM, Jordan LKB, Spieler RE (2004) Characterization of the marine fish assemblage associated with the nearshore hardbottom of Broward County, Florida, USA. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 60:431–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruno JF, Selig ER, Casey KS, Page CA, Willis BL, Harvell CD, Sweatman H, Melendy AM (2007) Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks. PLoS Biology 5:e124PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bryant D, Burke L, McManus J, Spaulding M (1998) Reefs at risk: a map-based indicator of threats to the world’s coral reefs. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  13. Bythell JC, Hillis-Starr ZM, Phillips B, Burnett WJ, Larcombe J, Bythell M (2000) Buck Island Reef National Monument, St Croix, US Virgin Islands: Assessment of the impacts of Hurricane Lenny (1999) and status of the reef 2000. Final report. US Department of Interior, National Park Service, University of NewcastleGoogle Scholar
  14. Carpenter RC (1988) Mass mortality of a Caribbean sea urchin: Immediate effects on community metabolism and other herbivores. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 85:511–514PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clarke RD (1996) Population shifts in two competing fish species on a degrading coral reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 137:51–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Claudet J, Osenberg CW, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Domenici P, Garcia-Charton JA, Perez-Ruzafa A, Badalamenti F, Bayle-Sempere J, Brito A, Bulleri F, Culioli JM, Dimech M, Falcon JM, Guala I, Milazzo M, Sanchez-Meca J, Somerfield PJ, Stobart B, Vandeperre F, Valle C, Planes S (2008) Marine reserves: size and age do matter. Ecol Lett 11:481–489PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coelho VR, Manfrino C (2007) Coral community decline at a remote Caribhean island: Marine no-take reserves are not enough. Aquat Conserv 17:666–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302–1310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Connell JH, Hughes TP, Wallace CC (1997) A 30-year study of coral abundance, recruitment, and disturbance at several scales in space and time. Ecol Monogr 67:461–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Côté IM, Mosqueira I, Reynolds JD (2001) Effects of marine reserve characteristics on the protection of fish populations: a meta-analysis. J Fish Biol 59:178–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Côté IM, Gill JA, Gardner TA, Watkinson AR (2005) Measuring coral reef decline meta-analyses. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 360:385–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Côté IM, Gardner TA, Gill JA, Hutchinson DJ, Watkinson AR (2006) New approaches to estimating recent ecological changes on coral reefs. In: Côté IM, Reynolds DJ (eds) Coral reef conservation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp 293–313Google Scholar
  23. Donner SD (2009) Coping with commitment: projected thermal stress on coral reefs under different future scenarios. PLoS ONE 4:e5712PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Eakin CM, Morgan JA, Heron SF, Smith TB, Liu G, Alvarez-Filip L, Baca B, Bartels E, Bastidas C, Bouchon C, Brant M, Bruckner AW, Bunkley-Williams L, Cameron A, Causey BC, Chiappone M, Christensen TRL, Crabbe MJC, Day O, de la Guardia E, Diaz-Pulido G, DiResta D, Gil-Agudelo DL, Gilliam E, Ginsburg R, Gore S, Guzman HM, Hendee JC, Hernandez-Delgado E, Husain E, Jeffrey CFG, Jones RJ, Jordan-Dahlgren E, Kaufman DM, Kline DI, Kramer P, Lang J, Lirman D, Mallela J, Manfrino C, Marechal J, Marks K, Mihaly J, Miller J, Muller EM, Muller M, Orozco-Toro CA, Oxenfor HA, Ponce-Taylor D, Quinn N, Ritchie KB, Rodriguez S, Rodriguez-Ramirez A, Romano S, Samhouri JF, Sanchez JA, Schahl GP, Shank B, Skirving WJ, Steiner SCC, Villamizar E, Walsh S, Walter C, Weil E, Williams EH, Woody K, Yusuf Y (2010) Caribbean corals in crisis: record thermal stress, bleaching, and mortality in 2005. PLoS ONE 5: e13969Google Scholar
  25. Edmunds PJ (2002) Long-term dynamics of coral reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands. Coral Reefs 21:357–367Google Scholar
  26. Gardner TA, Côté IM, Gill JA, Grant A, Watkinson AR (2003) Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean corals. Science 301:958–960PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gardner TA, Côté IM, Gill JA, Grant A, Watkinson AR (2005) Hurricanes and Caribbean coral reefs: Impacts, recovery patterns, and role in long-term decline. Ecology 85:174–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gaston KJ, Jackson SE, Cantu-Salazar L, Cruz-Pinon G (2008) The ecological performance of protected areas. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 39:93–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Glynn PW (1997) Bioerosion and coral reef growth: a dynamic balance. In: Birkeland CE (ed) Life and death of coral reefs. Chapman & Hall, New York, pp 68–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NVC, Robinson J, Bijoux JP, Daw TM (2007) Lag effects in the impacts of mass coral bleaching on coral reef fish, fisheries, and ecosystems. Conserv Biol 21:1291–1300PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Halpern BS (2003) The impact of marine reserves: Do reserves work and does reserve size matter? Ecol Appl 13:S117–S137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Halpern BS, Walbridge S, Selkoe KA, Kappel CV, Micheli F, D’Agrosa C, Bruno JF, Casey KS, Ebert C, Fox HE, Fujita R, Heinemann D, Lenihan HS, Madin EMP, Perry MT, Selig ER, Spalding M, Steneck R, Watson R (2008) A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319:948–952PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar Freshw Res 50:839–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, Gomez E, Harvell CD, Sale PF, Edwards AJ, 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 318:1737–1742PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hughes TP (1994) Catastrophes, phase shifts, and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef. Science 256:1547–1551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hughes TP, Connell JH (1999) Multiple stressors on coral reefs: A long-term perspective. Limnol Oceanogr 44:932–940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hutchings PA (1986) Biological destruction of coral reefs - a review. Coral Reefs 4:239–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jaap WC, Wheaton JL, Donnelly KB (1991) A three-year evaluation of community dynamics of coral reefs at Fort Jefferson National Monument (Dry Tortugas National Park), Dry Tortugas, Florida, USA. Florida Marine Research Institute, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  39. Kjerfve B, Ogden JC, Garzón-Ferreira J, Jordán-Dahlgren E, Meyer K, Penchaszadeh P, Wiebe WJ, Woodley JD, Zieman JC (1998) CARICOMP: A Caribbean network of marine laboratories, parks, and reserves for coastal monitoring and scientific collaboration. UNESCOGoogle Scholar
  40. Knowlton N, Jackson JBC (2008) Shifting baselines, local impacts, and global change on coral reefs. PLoS Biology 6:e54PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mallela J, Perry CT (2007) Calcium carbonate budgets for two coral reefs affected by different terrestrial runoff regimes, Rio Bueno, Jamaica. Coral Reefs 26:129–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McClanahan TR (1994) Kenyan coral-reef lagoon fish - effects of fishing, substrate complexity, and sea-urchins. Coral Reefs 13:231–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGrath T, Smith G, Rollino J (2007) A decadal-long evaluation of three coral patch reefs of San Salvador. Bahamas Naturalist & Journal of Science 2:4–13Google Scholar
  44. McWilliams JP, Côté IM, Gill JA, Sutherland WJ, Watkinson AR (2005) Accelerating impacts of temperature-induced coral bleaching in the Caribbean. Ecology 86:2055–2060CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Molloy PP, McLean IB, Côté IM (2009) Effects of marine reserve age on fish populations: a global meta-analysis. J Appl Ecol 46:743–751CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Mora C (2008) A clear human footprint in the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 275:767–773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mosqueira I, Côté IM, Jennings S, Reynolds JD (2000) Conservation benefits of marine reserves for fish populations. Anim Conserv 3:321–332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mumby PJ (2006) The impact of exploiting grazers (Scaridae) on the dynamics of Caribbean coral reefs. Ecol Appl 16:747–769PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mumby PJ, Harborne AR (2010) Marine reserves enhance the recovery of corals on Caribbean reefs. PLoS ONE 5:e8657PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mumby PJ, Steneck RS (2008) Coral reef management and conservation in light of rapidly evolving ecological paradigms. Trends Ecol Evol 23:555–563PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mumby PJ, Dahlgren CP, Harborne AR, Kappel CV, Micheli F, Brumbaugh DR, Holmes KE, Mendes JM, Broad K, Sanchirico JN, Buch K, Box S, Stoffle RW, Gill AB (2006) Fishing, trophic cascades, and the process of grazing on coral reefs. Science 311:98–101PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nyström M, Folke C, Moberg F (2000) Coral reef disturbance and resilience in a human-dominated environment. Trends Ecol Evol 15:413–417PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Paddack MJ, Reynolds JD, Aguilar C, Appeldoorn RS, Beets J, Burkett EW, Chittaro PM, Clarke K, Esteves R, Fonseca AC, Forrester GE, Friedlander AM, Garcia-Sais J, Gonzalez-Sanson G, Jordan LKB, McClellan DB, Miller MW, Molloy PP, Mumby PJ, Nagelkerken I, Nemeth M, Navas-Camacho R, Pitt J, Polunin NVC, Reyes-Nivia MC, Robertson DR, Rodriguez-Ramirez A, Salas E, Smith SR, Spieler RE, Steele MA, Williams ID, Wormald CL, Watkinson AR, Côté IM (2009) Recent region-wide declines in Caribbean reef fish abundance. Curr Biol 19:590–595PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pandolfi JM, Jackson JBC, Baron N, Bradbury RH, Guzman HM, Hughes TP, Kappel CV, Ogden JC, Possingham HP, Sala E (2005) Are U.S. coral reefs on the slippery slope to slime? Science 307:1725–1726PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Perry AL (2008) Regional-scale impacts of climate change on coral reefs and fishing-dependent countries. Ph.D. thesis, University of East Anglia, p 156Google Scholar
  56. Pratchett MS, Munday PL, Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Cinner JE, Bellwood DR, Jones GP, Polunin N, McClanahan T (2008) Effects of climate-induced coral bleaching on coral-reef-fishes ecological and economic consequences. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 46:251–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Roberts CM (1995) Effects of fishing on the ecosystem structure of coral reefs. Conserv Biol 9:988–995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rockstrom J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson A, Chapin FS, Lambin EF, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber HJ, Nykvist B, de Wit CA, Hughes T, van der Leeuw S, Rodhe H, Sorlin S, Snyder PK, Costanza R, Svedin U, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Corell RW, Fabry VJ, Hansen J, Walker B, Liverman D, Richardson K, Crutzen P, Foley JA (2009) A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461:472–475PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rogers CS, Suchanek TH, Pecora FA (1982) Effects of hurricanes David and Frederic (1979) on shallow Acropora palmata reef communities–St Croix, United-States Virgin Islands. Bull Mar Sci 32:532–548Google Scholar
  60. Rogers CS, McLain LN, Tobias CR (1991) Effects of hurricane Hugo (1989) on a coral reef in St John, USVI. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 78:189–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rosenberg E, Loya Y (2004) Coral health and disease. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  62. Rosenberg MS, Adams DC, Gurevitch J (2000) MetaWin: Statistical software for meta-analysis, Version 2.0. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  63. Sale PF, Cowen RK, Danilowicz BS, Jones GP, Kritzer JP, Lindeman KC, Planes S, Polunin NVC, Russ GR, Sadovy YJ, Steneck RS (2005) Critical science gaps impede use of no-take fishery reserves. Trends Ecol Evol 20:74–80PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Saunders MA, Lea AS (2008) Large contribution of sea surface warming to recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity. Nature 451:557–560PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schutte VGW, Selig ER, Bruno JF (2010) Regional spatio-temporal trends in Caribbean coral reef benthic communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 402:115–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Selig ER, Bruno JF (2010) A global analysis of the effectiveness of marine protected areas in preventing coral loss. PLoS ONE 5:e9278PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Selig ER, Casey KS, Bruno JF (2010) New insights into global patterns of ocean temperature anomalies: implications for coral reef health and management. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 19:397–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sheppard CRC, Spalding M, Bradshaw C, Wilson S (2002) Erosion vs. recovery of coral reefs after 1998 El Niño: Chagos reefs, Indian Ocean. Ambio 31:40–48PubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Steneck RS (1993) Is herbivore loss more damaging to reefs than hurricanes? Case studies from two Caribbean reef systems (1978–1988). In: Ginsburg R (ed) Proceedings of the colloquium on global aspects of coral reefs: Health, hazards and history. Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, pp 220–226Google Scholar
  70. Szmant A (2002) Nutrient enrichment on coral reefs: Is it a major cause of coral reef decline? Estuaries 25:743–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vitousek PM, Mooney H, Lubchenco J, Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. Science 277:494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Webster PJ, Holland GJ, Curry JA, Chang HR (2005) Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment. Science 309:1844–1846PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Pratchett MS, Jones GP, Polunin NVC (2006) Multiple disturbances and the global degradation of coral reefs: are reef fishes at risk or resilient? Global Change Biol 12:2220–2234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wood LJ (2007) MPA Global: A database of the world’s marine protected areas. Sea Around Us Project, UNEP-WCMC & WWF. http://www.mpaglobal.org
  75. Woodley JD, Chornesky EA, Clifford PA, Jackson JBC, Kaufman LS, Knowlton N, Lang JC, Pearson MP, Porter JW, Rooney MC, Rylaarsdam KW, Tunnicliffe VJ, Wahle CM, Wulff JL, Curtis ASG, Dallmeyer MD, Jupp BP, Koehl MAR, Neigel J, Sides EM (1981) Hurricane Allen’s impact on Jamaican coral reefs. Science 214:749–755PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. A. Gill
    • 1
  • N. K. Dulvy
    • 2
  • A. L. Perry
    • 1
    • 3
  • A. R. Watkinson
    • 4
  • I. M. Côté
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Earth to Ocean Research Group, Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  3. 3.The WorldFish CenterPenangMalaysia
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

Personalised recommendations