[Coral-List] Use and misuse of sediment traps on coral reefs

Todd Barber reefball at reefball.com
Fri Feb 18 07:58:40 EST 2011

Good points Mike....I might also point out that sediment affect corals
in many profoundly different ways.  The most common assumption is that
sediments will block out light and reduce photosynthesis but what is
far more dangerous to coral is when the grain sizes of the particles
are similar in size to the target food source of the particular coral
species affected.  This is because the coral will mistakenly ingest
the sediment and waste significant resources processing and expelling
the sediment.

My point is that not only do you need to measure sedimentation where
it affects the corals (as your points make) but also the grain size
distribution AND have a knowledge of which corals are being affected
and what grain sizes those particular coral species prefer for food.


Todd R Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation
3305 Edwards Court
Greenville, NC 27858
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On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 3:53 PM, Mike Field <mfield at usgs.gov> wrote:
>  Colleagues,
>  We have recently published a paper in Coral Reefs on the use and
> misuse of sediment traps in coral reef environments. We’re providing
> this information here because not all listers may have access to the
> journal, and because many monitoring protocols and research studies
> depend—sometimes inappropriately or erroneously-- on the use of traps
> to estimate or monitor sedimentation on coral reefs.
> The paper is:
> Storlazzi , C.D., Field  M. E., H. Bothner, M. H., 2011 The use (and
> misuse) of sediment traps in coral reef environments: theory,
> observations, and suggested protocols. Coral Reefs, v. 30, p 23-38
>  The abstract for the paper is below. If you would like a pdf copy of
> the paper, please send a request to Curt Storlazzi
> (cstorlazzi at usgs.gov) or to me (mfield at usgs.gov).
> Mike
> Sediment traps are commonly used as standard tools for monitoring
> ‘‘sedimentation’’ in coral reef environments. In much of the
> literature where sediment traps were used to measure the effects of
> ‘‘sedimentation’’ on corals, it is clear from deployment descriptions
> and interpretations of the resulting data that information derived
> from sediment traps has frequently been misinterpreted or misapplied.
> Despite their widespread use in this setting, sediment traps do not
> provide quantitative information about ‘‘sedimentation’’ on coral
> surfaces. Traps can provide useful information about the relative
> magnitude of sediment dynamics if trap deployment standards are used.
> This conclusion is based first on a brief review of the state of
> knowledge of sediment trap dynamics, which has primarily focused on
> traps deployed high above the seabed in relatively deep water,
> followed by our understanding of near-bed sediment dynamics in shallow-
> water environments that characterize coral reefs. This overview is
> followed by the first synthesis of near-bed sediment trap data
> collected with concurrent hydrodynamic information in coral reef
> environments. This collective information is utilized to develop nine
> protocols for using sediment traps in coral reef environments, which
> focus on trap parameters that researchers can control such as trap
> height (H), trap mouth diameter (D), the height of the trap mouth
> above the substrate (zo), and the spacing between traps. The
> hydrodynamic behavior of sediment traps and the limitations of data
> derived from these traps should be forefront when interpreting
> sediment trap data to infer sediment transport.
> ************************************************
> Michael E. Field
> US Geological Survey
> Pacific Science Center
> 400 Natural Bridges Drive
> Santa Cruz, CA 95060
> (831) 427-4737;   FAX: (831) 427-4748
> http://coralreefs.wr.usgs.gov
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