[Coral-List] inshore coral reefs and land-based pollutants

Maria Zann Schuster maria.zann at epa.qld.gov.au
Tue Sep 2 22:08:18 EDT 2008

Hi List-ers and Chris Perry in particular,

I'm just responding to Chris' paper in 'Geology' titled "1200 year
paleoecological record of coral community development from the
terrigenous inner shelf of the Great Barrier Reef" by Perry, Smithers,
Palmer, Larcombe & Johnson. Geology (2008) v. 36, p. 691-694.

This is a very interesting paper to use as we have lots of turbid zone
reefs here in Hervey Bay, but they are not tropical reefs like you
drilled off Paluma. Likewise we have very high percentage cover (often
>80%) and it was interesting to note that you say the reefs change in
species composition as they grow closer to the surface. Of course we
have different species recorded at different depths and I note that G.
aspera and T. frondens featured, as they do here. However, dominance
changes very much with aspect in these more subtropical waters, so that
some species like Pocillopora damicornis are dying from whatever cause
(turbidity/ mud/ water quality/bleaching or high water temperature)
while others like T. frondens seem to persist.  

What we would like to know is how our high-latitude specialists like
Acanthastrea lordhowensis cope with the turbidity from urban development
and catchment runoff.  It seems to me there is so much more variation in
subtropical inshore reefs than the reef you describe, and so our reefs
will be far more vulnerable to land-based stressors. However ours are in
a more precarious position than those inshore reefs you drilled, because
they are right next to shore and in the direct discharge path of a creek
which has been affected by turbidity due to runoff from developments in
the city of Hervey Bay.  So we need to know the vulnerability of these
inshore reefs to land-based disturbance and would be in the position of
monitoring their demise if nothing is done. 

So I'll be interested to see what other responses there are to your
paper, especially to "This is because high suspended sediment
concentrations (comparable to those recorded on many inner-shelf Great
Barrier Reef reefs; Larcombe et al., 2001) may alleviate light stress
and provide alternative food sources for temperature-stressed corals
(Anthony, 2006). Thus high turbidity may, somewhat counterintuitively,
aid the long-term stability of inner-shelf coral assemblages by
buffering coral communities against extrinsic disturbance events".  I
both agree and disagree.

This is really drawing a long bow, based on one reef we can't really say
this until we understand the composition and turbidity tolerances of
inner-shelf coral assemblages a bit better. 

Maria Zann

Maria Zann 
Snr Planning Officer (Water)
EPA  Planning
Wide Bay Burnett District
PO Box 101
Maryborough Qld 4650

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Email: Maria.Zann at epa.qld.gov.au

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