Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 733–749 | Cite as

Historic impact of watershed change and sedimentation to reefs along west-central Guam

  • Nancy G. ProutyEmail author
  • Curt D. Storlazzi
  • Amanda L. McCutcheon
  • John W. Jenson


Using coral growth parameters (extension, density, calcification rates, and luminescence) and geochemical measurements (barium to calcium rations; Ba/Ca) from coral cores collected in west-central Guam, we provide a historic perspective on sediment input to coral reefs adjacent to the Piti-Asan watershed. The months of August through December are dominated by increased coral Ba/Ca values, corresponding to the rainy season. With river water enriched in barium related to nearshore seawater, coral Ba/Ca ratios are presented as a proxy for input of fine-grained terrigenous sediment to the nearshore environment. The century-long Ba/Ca coral record indicates that the Asan fore reef is within the zone of impact from discharged sediments transported from the Piti-Asan watershed and has experienced increased terrestrial sedimentation since the 1940s. This abrupt shift in sedimentation occurred at the same time as both the sudden denudation of the landscape by military ordinance and the immediate subsequent development of the Asan area through the end of the war, from 1944 through 1945. In response to rapid input of sediment, as determined from coral Ba/Ca values, coral growth rates were reduced for almost two decades, while calcification rates recovered much more quickly. Furthermore, coral luminescence is decoupled from the Ba/Ca record, which is consistent with degradation of soil organic matter through disturbance by forest fires, suggesting a potential index of fire history and degradation of soil organic matter. These patterns were not seen in the cores from nearby reefs associated with watersheds that have not undergone the same degree of landscape denudation. Taken together, these records provide a valuable tool for understanding the compounding effects of land-use change on coral reef health.


Coral reefs Geochemistry Terrestrial sedimentation Land-use change 



This study was funded by the USGS’s Coastal and Marine Geology Program through the Pacific Coral Reef Project and NPS as well as funding from the University of Guam. The authors thank Josh Logan and Olivia Cheriton (USGS), Justin Mills and Mike Gawel (NPS-WAPA) for field support, Richard Randall (U. Guam) for guidance, Kathryn Rose and Anne Cohen (WHOI) for CT analysis and interpretation, Les Kinsley (ANU) for geochemical analysis, and Janice Lough and Eric Matson (AIMS) for luminescence analysis, and James Farley (NPS-WAPA) and Shahram Khosrowpanah (U. Guam) for helpful discussion. This manuscript was improved by comments by Olivia Cheriton (USGS) and two anonymous external reviews. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposed only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© US Government 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy G. Prouty
    • 1
    Email author
  • Curt D. Storlazzi
    • 1
  • Amanda L. McCutcheon
    • 2
    • 3
  • John W. Jenson
    • 2
  1. 1.U.S. Geological SurveyPacific Science CenterSanta CruzUSA
  2. 2.Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western PacificUniversity of GuamMangilaoUSA
  3. 3.U.S. National Park Service War in the Pacific National Historical ParkHagatnaUSA

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