Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 493–503 | Cite as

Predicting the distribution of Montastraea reefs using wave exposure

  • I. ChollettEmail author
  • P. J. Mumby


In the Caribbean region, forereef habitats dominated by Montastraea spp. have the highest biodiversity and support the largest number of ecosystem processes and services. Here we show that the distribution of this species-rich habitat can be explained by one environmental predictor: wave exposure. The relationship between wave exposure and the occurrence of Montastraea reefs was modelled using logistic regression for reefs throughout the Belize Barrier Reef, one of the largest and most topographically complex systems in the region. The model was able to predict correctly the occurrence of Montastraea reefs with an accuracy of 81%. Consistent with historical qualitative patterns, the distribution of Montastraea reefs is constrained in environments of high exposure. This pattern is likely to be driven by high rates of chronic sediment scour that constrain recruitment. The wide range of wave exposure conditions used to parameterize the model in Belize suggest that it should be transferable throughout much of the Caribbean region, constituting a fast and inexpensive alternative to traditional habitat mapping and complementing global efforts to map reef extent.


Millennium Coral Reef Mapping Project Remote sensing Habitat prediction Chronic disturbance regime 



Funding for this effort was provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England through the ORSAS scheme, the University of Exeter, NERC, the ARC, the GEF Coral Reef Targeted Research and the EU Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment project. We thank George (Jez) Roff for his valuable comments and discussion. This manuscript was produced from public domain resources. We are very grateful to those who have made such quality resources freely available to the research community.

Supplementary material

338_2011_867_MOESM1_ESM.doc (74 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 73 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, College of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  2. 2.Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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