Coral starving and survival

alcolado at alcolado at
Fri Mar 8 13:16:07 EST 2002

Dear coral-lister,
I decided to add a little more firewood to discussion on Debbie
McKenzie's interesting coral starving-survival hypohesis.
During an AGRRA assessment along the south and east of  the
Gulf of Batabano (SW Cuba; march 2001) the Cuban-International
team observed a  gradient of improving condition in Acropora
palmata (from a situation where practically all colonies were dead
along the south) in the extent we approximate to the huge Zapata
swamp (which is supposed to enhance plankton productivity and
where water becomes greenish and more turbid). The two Acropora
 palmata  crests closest to Zapata swamp looked practically
Another Cuban-International AGRRA assessment in the
Archipelago Jardines de la Reina (SE Cuba) showed that Acropora
palmata in the windward crests of Cayo Caballones, exposed to
the oligotrophic ocean were virtually dead, while a small Acropora
palmata crest located leeward of the same key and exposed to the
 most biological productive shelf of Cuba (varying from mesotrophic
to eutrophic along a cross gradient towards mainland) was alive
and really beautiful (mixed with dense thickets of live Acropora
Probably well fed Acropora palmata crests survived the massive
mortality event(s) (cause unknown: coral bleaching, white band,
patchy necrosis?) that killed the crests exposed to less nutrified
and less productive oceanic waters.
If so, McKenzie’s hypothesis, far from be discarded prematurely,
has to be tested because it could explain differences in the fate of
some coral reefs at small scale, and also explain some
mismatches at larger scale when correlating coral bleaching with
sea surface temperature.
I fully agree that higher sea surface temperatures are the primary
cause of coral bleaching, but the fate of corals ususally is
conditioned by other complementary factors (cloudiness, sea
surface roughness, water transparency, etc.), very probably
included the degree of coral starvation.
Pedro M. Alcolado
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