Porites growth characteristics in a changed environment: Misima Island, Papua New Guinea
The construction in 1988 of an open-cut gold mine and ore-processing facility at Misima Island, Papua New Guinea, resulted in disturbance of the adjacent fringing coral reef, mostly because of large increases in sedimentation. This provided an opportunity to examine whether growth characteristics of the major reef-building coral, Porites, changed in response to this sudden and sustained increase in sedimentation. Annual variation in skeletal density was measured in 93 colonies variously affected by sedimentation. The colonies provided data for average annual density, annual extension and annual calcification covering the periods 5 y before and 5 y after mining operations began. The average depth of skeleton occupied by tissue (tissue layer thickness) was also measured for most colonies. There was high mortality of Porites in regions strongly affected by increased sedimentation. In colonies that survived, density, extension and calcification tended to be less (in some cases significantly) in the period after mining operations began compared with pre-construction levels. However, these decreases were not linked with proximity to the mine site and probably reflect a regional-scale response of Porites growth to some other environmental change. This suggests that periods of high sedimentation may not be recorded by the growth characteristics of massive Porites. Average growth characteristics of surviving Porites from Misima Island were similar to those from inshore reefs of the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Tissue layer thickness in Porites from the control areas at Misima Island were also similar to colonies from the northern inshore GBR reefs. However, tissue layer thickness significantly decreased with increased proximity to the mine site at Misima Island.
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