Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 39–44 | Cite as

Age structure of massive Porites lutea corals at Luhuitou fringing reef (northern South China Sea) indicates recovery following severe anthropogenic disturbance

  • M. X. ZhaoEmail author
  • K. F. Yu
  • Q. M. Zhang
  • Q. Shi
  • G. Roff


Luhuitou fringing reef at Hainan Island (northern South China Sea) has experienced severe anthropogenic disturbance, with live coral cover declining by > 80 % since the 1960 s. To assess the size structure of Porites lutea, we measured the sizes of 1,857 colonies from the reef flat (0 m) and slope (2–4 m depth). Both populations were positively skewed and leptokurtic in shape, indicating a high abundance of smaller colonies (averaging 21.4 ± 2.3 cm on the flat and 31.9 ± 2.8 cm on the slope). Age structure of populations was determined through growth rates extracted from X-rays of P. lutea cores. The majority of colonies (> 95 %) were < 50 yr old, with 55 % of P. lutea on the reef flat having recruited following the establishment of a marine reserve in 1990. The abundance of younger colonies indicates significant recovery of P. lutea following the removal of chronic anthropogenic disturbance.


Coral Age structure Porites Recovery Disturbance 



This work was funded by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (Nos. 2013CB956101 and 2010CB950101), the “Strategic Priority Research Program” of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA05080301), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China projects (Nos. 40830852, 41025007, and 40906043).


  1. Babcock RC (1991) Comparative demography of three species of scleractinian corals using age-and size-dependent classifications. Ecol Monogr 61:225–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bak RPM, Meesters EH (1998) Coral population structure: the hidden information of colony size-frequency distributions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 162:301–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bak RPM, Meesters EH (1999) Population structure as a response of coral communities to global change. Am Zool 39:56–65Google Scholar
  4. Connell JH (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs - high diversity of trees and corals is maintained only in a non-equilibrium state. Science 199:1302–1310PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Done TJ (1987) Simulation of the effects of Acanthaster Planci on the population structure of massive corals in the genus Porites - evidence of population resilience. Coral Reefs 6:75–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Done TJ (1999) Coral community adaptability to environmental change at the scales of regions, reefs and reef zones. Am Zool 39:66–79Google Scholar
  7. Fong P, Glynn PW (1998) A dynamic size-structured population model: does disturbance control size structure of a population of the massive coral Gardineroseris planulata in the Eastern Pacific? Mar Biol 130:663–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Glassom D, Zakai D, Chadwick-Furman N (2004) Coral recruitment: a spatio-temporal analysis along the coastline of Eilat, northern Red Sea. Mar Biol 144:641–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gotelli NJ (2001) Research frontiers in null model analysis. Global Ecol Biogeogr 10:337–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Guzner B, Novoplansky A, Chadwick N (2007) Population dynamics of the reef-building coral Acropora hemprichii as an indicator of reef condition. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 333:143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Helmle K, Kohler K, Dodge R (2002) Relative Optical Densitometry and the Coral X-radiograph Densitometry System: CoralXDS. International Society for Reef Studies 2002 European Meeting, Cambridge, pp 4–7Google Scholar
  12. Hughes TP (1984) Population dynamics based on individual size rather than age: a general model with a reef coral example. Am Nat 123:778–795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hughes TP, Tanner JE (2000) Recruitment failure, life histories, and long-term decline of Caribbean corals. Ecology 81:2250–2263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hughes TP, Huang H, Young MAL (2013) The wicked problem of China’s disappearing coral reefs. Conserv Biol 27:261–269PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kenyon JC, Wilkinson CB, Aeby GS (2008) Community structure of hermatypic corals at Maro Reef in the North Western Hawaiian Islands: a unique open atoll. Atoll Res Bull 558:24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li S, Yu KF, Chen TR, Shi Q, Zhang HL (2011) Assessment of coral bleaching using symbiotic zooxanthellae density and satellite remote sensing data in the Nansha Islands, South China Sea. Chin Sci Bull 56:1031–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Meesters E, Hilterman M, Kardinaal E, Keetman M, De Vries M, Bak R (2001) Colony size-frequency distributions of scleractinian coral populations: spatial and interspecific variation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 209:43–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sanker D (2013) nlme: Linear and Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models. R package version 3.1-109Google Scholar
  19. Qiu W (2013) The Sanya Coral Reef National Marine Nature Reserve, China: A governance analysis. Mar Policy 41:50–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Team RC (2013) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  21. Yu DF (1995) Community structure of hermatypic coral on Luhuitou fringing reef: status quo and dynamics. Ph.D. thesis, Chinese Academy of Sciences, p 93Google Scholar
  22. Zhao MX, Yu KF, Zhang QM, Shi Q, Price GJ (2012) Long-term decline of a fringing coral reef in the Northern South China Sea. J Coast Res 28:1088–1099CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. X. Zhao
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. F. Yu
    • 1
  • Q. M. Zhang
    • 1
  • Q. Shi
    • 1
  • G. Roff
    • 2
  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Marginal Sea Geology, South China Sea Institute of OceanologyChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations