[Coral-List] A new paper on the importance of differentiating habitats for ecological assessments on coral reefs

Stacey Williams stcmwilliams at gmail.com
Fri Jun 19 08:19:33 EDT 2015

Dear Colleagues,

The following paper was published recently:

Williams, SM, Mumby PJ, Chollett I, Cortés J (2015) Importance of
differentiating *Orbicella* reefs from gorgonian plains for ecological
assessments of Caribbean reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 530:93-101 DOI:

Abstract: Region-wide assessments of coral cover typically rely on
meta-analyses of small scale ecological studies which have combined
different coral reef habitats. This is particularly problematic on
forereefs where at least 2 habitats can be found; coral-based bioherms and
colonized hardgrounds (hereafter *Orbicella* reefs and gorgonian plains),
each with very different structure and scleractinian coral cover. Here, we
quantify the degree to which the failure to differentiate forereef zones
dominated by framework building corals, mainly *Orbicella* spp. (hereafter
*Orbicella* reefs) from gorgonian plains can lead to biased assessments of
coral cover. We also provide a baseline of an extensive sample of Caribbean
coral reefs in 2010−2012 for the 2 habitats within the forereef. Mean
scleractinian coral cover (±SE) at *Orbicella* reefs was 24 ± 1.3%, more than
double the coral cover found on the gorgonian plains (10 ± 1.6%). The
difference in coral cover between habitats within the same geomorphological
zone is consistent with those calculated from an independent dataset for
the basin (Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment). Furthermore, the
average coral cover calculated for Caribbean *Orbicella* reefs was more
than double the values previously reported for entire reefs in the region a
decade ago (10%), which integrated data from different habitats, depths,
time periods and surveyors. Differentiating between forereef habitats has
provided a meaningful baseline of coral state, which allows for realistic
targets for management in the Caribbean basin.

This research was supported by a European Union funded project, Future of
Reefs in a Changing Environment (FORCE, grant 244161)

For those interested in receiving a PDF of this article can email me at
stcmwilliams at gmail.com


Stacey Williams

Stacey Williams, PhD.
Institute for Socio-Ecological Research, Inc.
ISER (www.isercaribe.org)
stcmwilliams at gmail.com
stcmwilliams at sbcglobal.net

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