[Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Douglas Fenner douglasfenner at yahoo.com
Tue May 3 19:55:51 EDT 2011


     My original statement was "coralline algae and other calcareous algae contributing as much or more calcium buildup than the corals."  People may well think that coralline algae are critical to coral reef structure, and your quotes say that's not true, and I would agree, there are surely reefs with very little crustose coralline algae.  But my statement didn't say that coralline algae are critical to reef structure, I carefully omitted that, and instead said that calcareous algae often contributed as much or more calcium buildup than corals.  Halimeda is a major producer of calcium, and my impression is that sand, partly from Halimeda flakes and partly from ground up coral, fills in spaces between hard coral skeletons, eventually being cemented together into solid reef.  "Calcareous algae" includes crustose coralline algae, other coralline algae, other red calcareous non-coralline algae (like Peysonellia), Halimeda, other green calcareous
 algae, and brown calcareous algae.  And there are other components contributing calcium like foraminifera and other invertebrates, as Alina points out.
     When you refer to the sediments, I remind that the sediments are primarily calcareous, and they are primarily produced by organisms on the reef (though in some places there are surely major contributions from algae like Halimeda living on the sand itself).  It is surely a reef-associated feature and in most cases reef-produced feature, and most people would consider it part of the reef system.  If you are actually on a reef, you will often notice that it is a mosaic of hard structures and soft, and it is often hard to say where one ends and another starts, in the sense that one area has lots of corals and hard substrate, and it fades into less and less corals and hard areas and more sediment until you reach a place which is mostly sediment.  Ridges and spurs are hard, the floors of grooves may be sand, holes filled with sand are all over, sand is often on top of reef rock, etc.  Sand produced by reefs is an integral part of reef systems and
 Halimeda a major sand producer.
      As for the critical role corals play in producing a wave-resistant structure, I agree.  But I will point out that on algal ridges, the waves are so powerful that nothing but crustose coralline algae are wave-resistant enough to live there.  Corals are not there because they aren't sufficiently wave-resistant.  So while it only happens where the waves are the largest, and only in shallow water, and it is only a small part of a whole reef, this is a place dominated and built entirely by crustose coralline algae, which are the most wave-resistant of all reef organisms.
      I will also quote the Steneck paper.  "Calcareous algae are important to reefs both today and in the past."  "Calcareous green algae are a major infiller of reefs.  Given their ubiquity and productivity they comprise a surprisingly high proportion of the total carbonate budget of reefs."  "Encrusting coralline algae can be a major space occupier on reefs."  "Coralline algae is not necessary for reef growth although under conditions of intense and frequent wave action at or near mean low water, significant coralline build ups, or algal ridges can develop."  "Crustose coralline red algae and calcareous green algae, such as Halimeda, dominate certain reef zones."  I would add that coralline algae is not totally restricted to shallow areas, we have a bay in American Samoa that gets quite a lot of wave surge, and not only is the benthos at 5 m deep dominated by crustose corallines, but there is nearly as much cover of it in places at 30 m
 deep.  That is unusual, but it can happen.  Also, there is a lot of crustose coralline algae and/or Peysonellia on slopes that is hidden under turf and macroalgae.  Crustose corallines and/or Peysonellia form an understory that is not as obvious as in shallow water, there is more there than it appears at first glance.
     May I commend to readers a recent article available online open access:

Vroom, P.S..  2011.  "Coral Dominance": A dangerous ecosystem misnomer?  Journal of Marine Biology, Volume 2011, Article ID 164127, 8 pages.

This article supports this line of thinking with quite a bit of evidence, and providing quotes like  "...other healthy reef ecosystems were found to rely almost
entirely on calcified algae and foraminifera for calcium carbonate accumulation."  and  "Calcareous algae include not only crustose coralline red genera, but also calcified macroalgae such as species of the segmented, green genus Halimeda, which are the main producers of carbonate sediments in many reef systems [16, 49–52]."   "In fact, in the least impacted Pacific ecosystems monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), the vast majority exhibit average island-wide percent cover of calcified red algae ranging from 1% to 42% and scleractinian corals ranging from 2% to 40% (Figure 2) [39]."

      So while I would agree that crustose coralline algae are not critical for reefs, I would also say that calcareous algae as a whole are a very important part of reef ecosystems and the production of calcium, and can at times produce as much or more calcium than corals produce.     Cheers,  Doug

From: Derek Manzello <dmanzello at rsmas..miami.edu>
To: szmanta at uncw.edu; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Sent: Monday, May 2, 2011 2:48 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Hi Alina and coral-listers,

Given the values you provided, I'm assuming you've based your ideas on
Table 1 from Orme (1977) within v.4 of the Jones and Endean books.

The numbers you refer to are from lagoon and reef sediments, not actual
reef frameworks.  The title of the Table is, in fact, "Some examples of
the composition of peripheral reef sediment".

Nobody is arguing that there other calcifiers on coral reefs. A lot of
these calcaerous materials end up in sedimentary environments, sometimes
in domineering fashion (e.g., /Halimeda/ in some lagoons).  However, these
sedimentary environments usually occur in the lee of A) structural coral
reef framework or B) some other baffling antecedent topography.

When I think of a coral reef, I think of a calcareous, 3-D, wave resistant
structure.  I do not consider the sediments that accumulate in the lee of
structural reef frameworks the actual coral reef.  Based on your argument,
any calcareous sedimentary environment should therefore be a coral reef. 
Saying these other calcifiers contribute to the building of coral reefs is
like saying that the windows on a skyscraper are instrumental to its

I stand by Ian Macintyre's (1997) conclusion:

"Crustose coralline algae do not contribute significantly to reef
framework except in shallow water, high-energy environments.  In Holocene
reefs, which have had to cope with advancing sea levels, these conditions
have occurred mainly in the latter stages of reef growth, when there is
little space left for framework accumulation.  Thus the coralline algal
contribution to the overall structural framework in modern reefs has for
the most part been minor."


Refs cited
Macintyre IG (1997) Reevaluating the role of crustose coralline algae in
the construction of coral reefs. Proc 8th Int Coral Reef Symp 1:725-730

Orme GR (1977) Aspects of sedimentation in the coral reef environment. In:
Biology and Geology of Coral Reefs, v. 4.  Jones OA, Endean R (Eds),
Academic Press, p. 129-176

Hi Derek:

Contrary to your statements, and those cited from the 8th International
Symposium, there are a number of studies that have quantified the relative
contribution of the various calcifying taxa to reef building, and there
are large regional and local differences in these values.  In chapters in
the old (1973-1975) Geology and Biology of Coral Reefs and other sources,
analyzing which taxa make up how much of long reef cores, corals are
attributed with 5-45 % of the carbonate, red and green calcified algae
together 5 to 60 % of the carbonate, forams 2-40 %, and miscellaneous
inverts (echinoderms, mollusks, crustaceans up to 30 % of the carbonate. 
So while I agree that the large coral heads and also the fast growing
branching corals are essential for reef formation, they don't do it alone.



Dr. Alina M. Szmant
Professor of Marine Biology
Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington
5600 Marvin Moss Ln
Wilmington NC 28409 USA
tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Derek
Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 1:15 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef

Hello Doug and coral-list,

Thanks for the helpful information.  However, I found one statement in
your message inaccurate.

The statement I refer to is this: "That said, most reefs are not just
coral reefs, they are coralgal reefs or even algal coral reefs, with
coralline algae and other calcareous algae contributing as much or more
calcium buildup than the corals."

This is a popular quip among certain reef ecologists that is not
supported by any hard data, other than some very rare and extreme
cases.  I felt it was necessary to respond to this because this
misconception seems to be popping up everywhere and I think we need to
remind ourselves that this was already debated and pretty much resolved
a while back.  In fact, there was an entire session during the 8th
International Coral Reef Symposium entitled "Are calcareous algae
important to reefs today or in the past?"

In the session summary, Steneck and Testa state: ""Calcareous algae have
long been assumed to be important and perhaps even necessary for reef
development. If so, one might expect to find the rates of reef growth
(or accumulation) correlating with the abundance of calcareous algae.
Macintyre (1997) reviewed the association of coralline algae and reef
development by reviewing  non-algal ridge reefs and 5 algal ridge reefs
that have been drilled all over the world. Macintyre made the simple but
profound point that most of the worlds fastest growing coral reefs were
relatively devoid of coralline algae during that period of rapid
growth... Coral reefs do not require corallines or any calcareous algae
for their formation. Internal strength of reefs is primarily augmented
by submarine lithification and not by coralline algal cementation as has
often been asserted."

CCAs are important to reef dynamics for a variety of reasons, but they
do not significantly contribute to the calcium carbonate budget of the
vast majority of coral reefs, nor do they 'cement' reefs, as has been a
popular misconception for years.  For further information on this topic,
I refer the list to the important papers within this session (all freely
available online at reefbase), that are all too often overlooked.  The
specific papers referred to here are referenced below.

With regards,
Derek Manzello

Macintyre IG (1997) Reevaluating the role of crustose coralline algae in
the construction of coral reefs. Proc 8th Int Coral Reef Symp 1:725-730

Steneck RS, Testa V (1997) Are calcareous algae important to reefs today
or in the past? Symposium summary. Proc 8th Int Coral Reef Symp 1:685-688.

On 4/21/2011 4:41 PM, Douglas Fenner wrote:
> >      Almost all reef-building coral species in the Caribbean have ranges
> > throughout the Caribbean, since the Caribbean is a relatively small
body of
> > water (compared to the Indo-Pacific, for instance).  Most all of  the
> > have already been found in places like Belize, Cozumel,  Akumal,
Cancun area,
> > and so on, and some of the others may be there but  just haven't been
> > there yet.  There are a very few which have not  been found in the NW
or W
> > Caribbean at all, and might (might) not be  there (to prove they are
not there
> > is like trying to prove the null  hypothesis).  One that is pretty
sure not to
> > be there is Millepora  squarrosa.  It is only known from the southeast
> > Caribbean, and reports  elsewhere are likely all errors.  Millepora
> > can look a bit like it, but if you look in the Humann book  you'll see M.
> > squarrosa is actually quite distinctive and easy to  recognize.  A second
> > species is Leptoseris cailleti, a small deep-water  species that is
> > reported anywhere.  Millepora striata is rarely  reported, but I
reported it
> > from Belize, so it is in the MesoAmerican  reef system.  There are a
few other
> > rarely reported or less well known  species that may or may not be
there, such
> > as Madracis senaria, Madracis  asperula, Madracis carambi and Porites
> > The situation is  quite different with the azooxanthellate corals.
How many are
> > present  in an area is poorly known, probably because they are small and
> > cryptic,  but they may be patchy as well, since they typically live in
> > specific habitats like cavern roofs that are searched less often and
> > completely than open habitats.  Also, their identification is not a
> > matter for most  of us reef biologists, most require sending a sample
to the one
> > or two  people in the whole world who are experts on their taxonomy
(I'm not one
> > of them, Dr. Stephen Cairns at the Smithsonian is one, and can put you
in touch
> > with the others).
> >        For the zooxanthellate species, you can find range maps in
Veron (2000),
> > but it appears he fills in all the Caribbean for any species found
somewhere in
> > the Caribbean.  He's working on a much more detailed  database called
> > Geographic."
> >
> >       To my way of thinking Belize has a true barrier reef, but the
rest of the
> > MesoAmerican reef system is not a barrier reef as far as I know, but
I'm no
> > expert on it.  A barrier reef has to have a significant lagoon between
it and
> > land, and my impression is outside Belize, reefs are pretty much
fringing.  I've
> > also heard of the Florida Keys reefs referred to as a barrier reef.  I
> > the older name, "Florida Reef Tract" since as far as I know it
consists of a
> > series of relatively small reefs with wide gaps between them, and more
> > continuous ridges of hard grounds that are not currently living coral
reefs and
> > don't get close to the surface.  Gene Shinn also tells me that the
Florida Keys
> > reefs have been called bank reefs.  That said, most reefs are not just
> > reefs, they are coralgal reefs or even algal coral reefs, with
coralline algae
> > and other calcareous algae contributing as much or more calcium
buildup than the
> > corals.  Also, the Great Barrier Reef is not a single reef but a whole
series of
> > about two  thousand reefs, with gaps of various sizes (a maze that in
effect is
> > a barrier to  navigation unless you have GPS and a very good map
system and are
> > a good  navigator).  There is one section that is a nearly continuous
> > the section called the "Ribbon Reefs."  I'd also remind people of the
> > reef in New Caledonia, which is like Belize and the Ribbon Reefs in
the GBR, a
> > nearly continuous barrier with some small gaps.  New Caledonia is said
to have
> > the longest continuous barrier reef in the world, and likely that is
not widely
> > known.  Anyhow, "MesoAmerican reef system"  sounds fine with me, as
does Belize
> > Barrier Reef, but adding barrier to  MesoAmerican does not, nor does
it for
> > Florida.  It seems like today  people think the word "barrier" adds
charisma, so
> > they want to call  their reef a barrier reef.  Fringing reef ought to
also have
> > some  charisma, think of the Ningaloo fringing reef in western Australia,
> > longest fringing reef in the world.  Not nearly as well known as the
GBR, but a
> > huge and amazing reef.  Think of Indonesia, which has more  coral
reefs than any
> > other country in the world (slightly more than  Australia), I bet most
of their
> > reefs are fringing.  Also among the most  diverse in the world, a true
> > treasure.  Fringing is good.        Doug
> >
> > Cheers,  Doug
> >
> > Fenner, D. 2001.  Biogeography of three Caribbeancorals (Scleractinia);
> > Tubastraea
> >
> >     coccineainvades the Gulf of Mexico.  Bulletin of Marine Science 69:
> > 1175-1189.
> >
> > Fenner, D.  1999.  New Observations on the Stony Coral Species
> >     Milliporidae, Stylaseridae) of Belize(Central America) and
> >     Bulletin of Marine Science 64: 143-154.
> >
> > Fenner, D. P. 1993. Some reefs and corals of Roatan (Honduras), Cayman
Brac, and
> >     Little Cayman.  Atoll Research Bulletin 388: 1-30.
> > Weerdt, W. H.  de.  1990.  Discontinuous distribution of the tropical
> > Atlantic  hydrocoral Millepora squarrosa.  Beaufort. 41: 195-203.
> >
> > Douglas Fenner
> > Coral Reef Monitoring Ecologist
> > Dept Marine & Wildlife Resources
> > American Samoa
> >
> >
> > Mailing address:
> > PO Box 3730
> > Pago Pago, AS 96799
> > USA
> >
> >
> > work phone 684  633 4456
> >
> >
> > Sharply increased mass loss from glaciers and ice caps in the Canadian
> > Archipelago
> >
> >
> > Between  the periods 2004-2006 and 2007-2009, the rate of mass loss
> > increased from 31 ± 8 Gt yr 1 to 92 ± 12 Gt yr 1 in direct response to
> > summer temperatures, to which rates of ice loss are highly  sensitive
(64 ± 14
> > Gt yr 1 per 1 K increase).
> >
> > Gardner et al Nature
> > http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature10089.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20110421
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: Brittany Huntington <brittanyhuntington at gmail.com>
> > To: coral-list at coral.aoml..noaa.gov
> > Sent: Thu, April 21, 2011 4:13:17 AM
> > Subject: [Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
> >
> > I am interested in determining the regional species pool for
> > corals within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.  Published reports
> > in around 60 species from what I have found but would appreciate any
> > to a taxonomic list of coral species observed in the region.
> >
> > Thanks in advance,
> > Brittany Huntington
> >
> > Brittany Huntington
> > Doctoral Candidate
> > Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries
> > Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
> > University of Miami
> > 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
> > Miami, FL 33149
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list


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