Advertisement

Coral Reefs

, Volume 12, Issue 3–4, pp 185–191 | Cite as

Destruction of corals and other reef animals by coral spawn slicks on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

  • C. J. Simpson
  • J. L. Cary
  • R. J. Masini
Reports

Abstract

In March 1989, most of the corals near Coral Bay, off the north-western coastline of Australia, spawned several nights earlier than usual. Flood, rather than ebb, tides at the time of spawning combined with light north-west winds and low swell conditions to restrict the dispersal of coral propagules and, as a result, large amounts of coral spawn were trapped in the bay, forming extensive slicks. Fish and other animals began to die almost immediately, and over the next few days, over 1 million fish, representing at least 80 species, were washed ashore. A survey of the benthic communities revealed extensive mortality of corals and other reef animals over an area of about 3 km2. Live coral cover in this area decreased from 42.9% to 9.4% and several large coral colonies up to 10 m in diameter were killed. The observed mortality was presumably the result of hypoxia (oxygen depletion) created initially by the respiratory demand of the coral spawn and maintained by the biological oxygen demand of the decomposing spawn slicks and dead animals. Anecdotal reports of corals and other reef animals dying in the vicinity of coral spawn slicks on other reefs in Western Australia suggest that this phenomenon may be a relatively common event on shallow coral reefs where coral mass spawning occurs. These records and observations document, for the first time, a new source of natural disturbance that has a significant influence on the community structure of some coral reefs.

Keywords

Coral Reef Coral Cover Biological Oxygen Demand Live Coral Coral Coloni 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allen GR, Swainson R (1988) The marine fishes of north-western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Western Australian Museum, Perth, Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  2. Babcock RC, Bull GD, Harrison PL, Heyward AJ, Oliver JK, Wallace CC, Willis BL (1986) Synchronous spawning of 105 scleractinian coral species on the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Biol 90:379–394Google Scholar
  3. Berry PF (ed) (1989) Survey of the marine fauna of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Indian Ocean. Western Australian Museum, PerthGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown BE, Hubbard LS (1985) Assessing the effects of “stress” on coral reefs. Adv Mar Biol 22:1–63Google Scholar
  5. Buddemeier RW, Kinzie RA (1976) Coral growth. Oceanogr Mar Annu Rev 14:179–200Google Scholar
  6. Bunce P (1988) The Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Australian atolls in the Indian Ocean. Jacaranda Press, Milton, QueenslandGoogle Scholar
  7. Colin PL (1977) The Reefs of Cocos-Keeling Atoll, eastern Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the Third International Coral Reef Symposium, vol 1, pp 63–68Google Scholar
  8. Easton AK (1970) The tides of the continent of Australia. (Research paper no. 37) Horace Lamb Centre for Oceanographic Studies, AdelaideGoogle Scholar
  9. Forbes HO (1885) A naturalist's wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago. Samson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Grigg RW, Dollar SJ (1991) Natural and anthropogenic disturbance on coral reefs. In: Dubinsky E (ed) Ecosystems of the world, vol 25: coral reefs. Elsevier, New York, pp 439–452Google Scholar
  11. Harrison PL, Babcock RC, Bull GD, Heyward AJ, Oliver JK, Wallace CC, Willis BL (1984) Mass spawning in tropical reef corals. Science 223:1186–1189Google Scholar
  12. Hatcher BG (1988) Australia (Western). In: Wells SM (ed) Coral reefs of the world. Directory of coral reefs, vol 2: Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Gulf. IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK, pp 1–26Google Scholar
  13. Hearn CJ, Parker IN (1988) Hydrodynamic processes on the Ningaloo coral reef, Western Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Coral Reef Symposium, vol 2, pp 497–502Google Scholar
  14. Hearn CJ, Hatcher BG, Masini RJ, Simpson CJ (1986) Oceanographic processes on the Ningaloo coral reef. (Environmental dynamics report ED-86-171) Centre for Water Research, University of Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  15. Oliver JK, Willis BL (1987) Coral spawn slicks in the Great Barrier Reef: preliminary observations. Mar Biol 94:521–529Google Scholar
  16. Pearson R (1981) Recovery and recolonization of coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 4:105–122Google Scholar
  17. Simpson CJ (1985) Mass spawning of scleractinian corals in the Dampier Archipelago and the implications for management of coral reefs in Western Australia. (Bulletin 244) Department of Conservation and Environment, PerthGoogle Scholar
  18. Simpson CJ (1987) Growth, metabolism and reproduction of corals in northwestern Australia, PhD thesis, University of Western Australia, PerthGoogle Scholar
  19. Simpson CJ (1988) Ecology of scleractinian corals in the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Technical series 23. Environmental Protection Authority, PerthGoogle Scholar
  20. Simpson CJ (1991) Mass spawning of corals on Western Australian reefs and comparisons with the Great Barrier Reef. J R Soc W Aust 74:85–91Google Scholar
  21. Simpson CJ, Masini RJ (1986) Tide and seawater temperature data from the Ningaloo Reef Tract, Western Australia, and the implications for coral mass spawning. (Bulletin 253) Environmental Protection Authority, PerthGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. J. Simpson
    • 1
  • J. L. Cary
    • 1
  • R. J. Masini
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Protection AuthorityPerth

Personalised recommendations