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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 797–812 | Cite as

Marine biological community baselines in unimpacted tropical ecosystems: spatial and temporal analysis of reefs at Howland and Baker Islands

  • Peter S. VroomEmail author
  • Craig A. Musburger
  • Susan W. Cooper
  • James E. Maragos
  • Kimberly N. Page-Albins
  • Molly A. V. Timmers
Original Paper

Abstract

Howland and Baker Islands are two small, isolated reef and sand islets located near the equator in the central Pacific Ocean that are situated approximately 60 km apart. In 2004 and 2006, species-level monitoring at multiple sites, coupled with towed-diver surveys in 2002, 2004, and 2006 on both of these federally protected islands, revealed diverse fish, coral, macroinvertebrate, and algal assemblages. This study examines inter- and intra-island spatial and temporal differences in community composition among sites and presents baseline biological community parameters for two of the least impacted reef systems in the world. Despite similarities in species composition, permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) and multidimensional scaling ordinations (nMDS) suggest biological communities at the two islands are distinct with Baker Island containing a greater percent cover of branched Acroporid corals and turf algae and Howland Island containing a greater percent cover of crustose coralline red algae and small, compact genera of coral. Both islands also contained considerable cover of non-invasive macroalgae. PERMANOVA further revealed benthic and fish species composition to differ between forereef and reef shelf sites from different sides of each island. When islands were considered as a whole, temporal changes were not noted between 2004 and 2006; however, temporal changes at select sites did occur, with coral cover decreasing significantly along the west side of Baker Island from 2004 to 2006.

Keywords

Algae Coral reef Fish Monitoring Phase shift 

Abbreviations

BT

Belt transect

CPCe

Coral point count with Microsoft excel extensions

CRED

Coral reef ecosystem division

E

East

GPS

Global positioning system

nMDS

Nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination

N

North

NW

Northwest

PERMANOVA

Permutational multivariate analysis of variance

REAs

Rapid ecological assessments

SIMPER

Similarity percentages

S

South

SE

Southeast

W

West

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to the crews of the NOAA ships Oscar Elton Sette and Hi`ialakai for field support. Thanks also to B DeJoseph, M Kalson, and J Stephenson for algal microscope slide and herbarium sheet preparation, E DeMartini, A Friedlander, J Philibotte, P Ayotte, and S McTee for assistance with collection of fish data, M Dailer for assistance with collection of benthic data, and P Ayotte and B Richards for help with interpretation of fish results. B Bowen, R Brainard, E DeMartini, K Holland, and J Kenyon reviewed early drafts of the manuscript and provided valuable feedback. Funding to CRED for scientific expeditions to the U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas was provided by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex granted NOAA permission to enter the two National Wildlife Refuges under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Use Permit 12521-04001.

Supplementary material

10531_2009_9735_MOESM1_ESM.doc (58 kb)
Appendix S1. Towed-diver track data, and GPS coordinates and depths of rapid ecological assessment (REA) study sites (DOC 58 kb)
10531_2009_9735_MOESM2_ESM.eps (11 mb)
Appendix S2. 2002 towed diver and REA data. (A) IKONOS satellite image of Baker Island, (B) IKONOS satellite image of Howland Island. Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) study sites (Table 1) are depicted by yellow triangles. Towed-diver survey tracks from 2002 are indicated with benthic functional group data summarized as pie-charts in 5-minute intervals. Each pie chart equals 100% cover. Graduated slices are graphed based upon the proportionality of each group in relationship to each other at towed-diver midpoints. Images are cropped at the 30 m depth contour for each island. Image does not reflect actual location or distance of islands to each other (PDF 647 KB)
10531_2009_9735_MOESM3_ESM.eps (32.6 mb)
Appendix S3. 2004 towed diver and REA data. (A) IKONOS satellite image of Baker Island, (B) IKONOS satellite image of Howland Island. Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) study sites (Table 1) are depicted by yellow triangles. Towed-diver survey tracks from 2004 are indicated with benthic functional group data summarized as pie-charts in 5-minute intervals. Each pie chart equals 100% cover. Graduated slices are graphed based upon the proportionality of each group in relationship to each other at towed-diver midpoints. Images are cropped at the 30 m depth contour for each island. Image does not reflect actual location or distance of islands to each other (PDF 647 KB)
10531_2009_9735_MOESM4_ESM.doc (168 kb)
Appendix S4. Comparison of average percent cover of select benthic species by site (upper numbers) with standard error (lower numbers) at REA survey sites in 2004 and 2006, n = 12 photoquadrats/site. Only species that contributed to a significant percentage of observed SIMPER differences are listed. Sites in appendix are arranged in geographic order moving counterclockwise from the NW corner of each island within each sampling year. Alternating white and grey areas visually separate geographic areas around the islands (DOC 167 kb)
10531_2009_9735_MOESM5_ESM.doc (160 kb)
Appendix S5. Comparison of average counts of select fish species by site (upper numbers) with standard error (lower numbers) at REA survey sites in 2004 and 2006, n = 3 belt transects/site. Only species that contributed to 90% of observed SIMPER differences are listed. Sites in appendix are arranged in geographic order moving counterclockwise from the NW corner of each island within each sampling year. Alternating white and grey areas visually separate geographic areas around the islands. Cor—Corralivore, MI—Mobile Invertivore, Pk—planktivore (DOC 160 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter S. Vroom
    • 1
    Email author
  • Craig A. Musburger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Susan W. Cooper
    • 1
  • James E. Maragos
    • 3
  • Kimberly N. Page-Albins
    • 1
  • Molly A. V. Timmers
    • 1
  1. 1.Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUniversity of Hawai`iHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Hawai`iHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceHonoluluUSA

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