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Coral Reefs

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 505–520 | Cite as

Applying a ridge-to-reef framework to support watershed, water quality, and community-based fisheries management in American Samoa

  • Mia T. Comeros-RaynalEmail author
  • Alice Lawrence
  • Mareike Sudek
  • Motusaga Vaeoso
  • Kim McGuire
  • Josephine Regis
  • Peter Houk
Report

Abstract

Water quality and fisheries exploitation are localized, chronic stressors that impact coral reef condition and resilience. Yet, quantifying the relative contribution of individual stressors and evaluating the degree of human impact to any particular reef are difficult due to the inherent variation in biological assemblages that exists across and within island scales. We developed a framework to first account for island-scale variation in biological assemblages, and then evaluate the condition of 26 reefs adjacent to watersheds in Tutuila, American Samoa. Water quality data collected over 1 year were first linked with watershed characteristics such as land use and human population. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) concentrations were best predicted by total human population and disturbed land for watersheds with over 200 humans km−2, providing a predictive threshold for DIN enrichment attributed to human populations. Coral reef assemblages were next partitioned into three distinct reeftypes to account for inherent variation in biological assemblages and isolate upon local stressors. Regression models suggested that watershed characteristics linked with DIN and fishing access best predicted ecological condition scores, but their influences differed. Relationships were weakest between coral assemblages and watershed-based proxies of DIN, and strongest between fish assemblages and distances to boat harbors and wave energy (i.e., accessibility). While we did not explicitly address the potential recursivity between fish and coral assemblages, there was a weak overall correlation between these ecological condition scores. Instead, the more complex, recursive nature between reef fish and habitats was discussed with respect to bottom-up and top-down processes, and several ongoing studies that can better help address this topic into the future were identified. The framework used here showed the spatial variation of stressor influence, and the specific assemblage attributes influenced by natural and anthropogenic drivers which aims to guide a local ridge-to-reef management strategy.

Keywords

Ridge to reef Water quality Coral reef condition Island-scale Resource management 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9 Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG). We thank the late American Samoa EPA Director, Ameko Pato, for his support of this project. We are grateful to AS-EPA Director, Fa’amao Asalele, Jr., for his leadership and guidance throughout this study. We are grateful for the support from AS-EPA’s Water and Education Technical Programs and Administration services. We are thankful for the support from the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, especially Director Va’amua Henry Sesepasara. We are grateful to Gene Brighouse and Atuatasi-Lelei Peau from the National Marine Sanctuaries of American Samoa for their continued support of this work. We thank the National Park of American Samoa particularly Superintendent Scott Burch for overall project support. We thank the following for their assistance with water quality sampling: Joseph Paulin, Bert Fuiava, Ian Moffitt, and Paolo Marra-Biggs. We also thank Meagan Curtis, Kelley Anderson Tagarino, and Francis Leiato for logistical support. We are grateful for technical guidance from Chris Shuler, Dave Whitall, Trent Biggs, and Alex Messina. We thank Michael Wolfram, Wendy Wiltse, John McCarroll, and Hudson Slay for their continued guidance and support. MTCR is supported by funding from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence Program.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

338_2019_1806_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (28 kb)
Figure S1 Ridge-to-reef analytical framework. Flowchart depicts process of testing inherent differences in biological assemblages using multivariate analysis (A), examining the relationship between Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen and watershed characteristics (B), and stepwise regression describing relationships between human and natural factors and biological condition (C) (PDF 28 kb)
338_2019_1806_MOESM2_ESM.png (329 kb)
Figure S2 The distribution of monthly DIN concentrations over the course of the study year with respect to ASEPA watershed classifications. Black lines show median values, boxes show 25th and 75th percentile, and lines show 5th and 95th percentile of the data. Colors indicate varying ASEPA watershed categories (PNG 329 kb)
338_2019_1806_MOESM3_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 13 kb)
338_2019_1806_MOESM4_ESM.docx (12 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 12 kb)
338_2019_1806_MOESM5_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 14 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Coral Reef Advisory GroupDepartment of Marine and Wildlife ResourcesPago PagoUSA
  3. 3.National Marine Sanctuary of American SamoaPago PagoUSA
  4. 4.American Samoa Environmental Protection AgencyPago PagoUSA
  5. 5.UOG StationUniversity of Guam Marine LaboratoryMangilaoUSA

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