Reef islands are unique landforms composed entirely of sediment produced on the surrounding coral reefs. Despite the fundamental importance of these ecological-sedimentary links for island development and future maintenance, reef island sediment production regimes remain poorly quantified. Using census and sedimentary data from Vakkaru island (Maldives), a sand-dominated atoll interior island, we quantify the major sediment-generating habitats, the abundance of sediment producers in these habitats, and the rates and size fractions of sediment generated by different taxa. The estimated annual sediment production is 685,000 kg (or 370 m3), ∼75% of which is produced on the narrow outer reef flat, despite composing only 21% of the total platform area. Approximately 65% of the platform acts solely as a sediment sink. Census data identify parrotfish as the major sediment producers, generating >85% of the 5.7 kg m–2 of new sand-grade sediment produced on the outer reef flat each year. Halimeda (macroalgae) produce a further 10%, most as gravel-grade material. Comparisons between production estimates and sedimentary data indicate that reef ecology and island sedimentology are tightly linked; reef flat and lagoon sediments are dominated by coral and Halimeda, although fine- to medium-grained coral sand is the dominant (∼59%) island constituent. The generation of sediment suitable for maintaining this reef island is thus critically dependent on a narrow zone of high-productivity reef, but most especially on the maintenance of healthy parrotfish populations that can convert reef framework to sand-grade sediment.
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New publication drawing on SPACES data shows East African reefs particularly susceptible to coral bleaching
SPACES team members, Tim McClanahan and Nyawira Muthiga have used SPACES coral reef survey data in an analysis of the factors affecting coral’s susceptibility to coral bleaching in the face of warmer climates. The analysis based on surveys from E. Africa to Fiji during the 2016 El Nino event showed that bleaching is caused by […]
New Publication: Kenyan and Mozambican coral reef ‘carbonate budgets’ contribute to international picture of corals under sea-level rise.
SPACES coral reef surveys have contributed to an international picture of how reefs might be able to grow to keep up with sea-level rise, recently published in Nature. The growth of coral reefs is strongly influenced by the amount and types of coral living on the reef surface, but across both regions this growth is […]
Artisanal fisheries in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique: rural vs urban fishing centers
This working paper investigates the relationship between gear, catch and income generated by the fishers in different seasons. SPACES researchers collected data using fish catch surveys at landing sites in Pemba town, Vamizi and Lalane. A standard questionnaire was used to collect the effort and location of the fishery. The fishery shows a wide range […]
Changing dynamics of reef framework production in the Western Indian Ocean – Fraser Januchowski-Hartley et al.(1.2 MB)
Fraser Januchowski-Hartley’s presentation at the 2015 WIOMSA symposium on carbonate budget and current coral condition at SPACES sites, Mombasa, Shimoni, Vamizi, and Pemba.
Remote coral reefs can sustain high growth potential and may match future sea-level trands. Nature Scientific Reports 2015
Climate-induced disturbances are contributing to rapid, global-scale changes in coral reef ecology. As a consequence, reef carbonate budgets are declining, threatening reef growth potential and thus capacity to track rising sea-levels. Whether disturbed reefs can recover their growth potential and how rapidly, are thus critical research questions. Here we address these questions by measuring the […]
Similar impacts of fishing and environmental stress on calcifying organisms in Indian Ocean coral reefs. Marine Ecology Press Series 2016
Calcification and reef growth processes dominated by corals and calcifying algae are threatened by climate and fishing disturbances. Twenty-seven environmental, habitat, and species interaction variables were tested for their influence on coral and calcifier cover in 201 western Indian Ocean coral reefs distributed across ~20° of latitude and longitude and up to 20 m deep. […]
Environmental variability indicates a climate-adaptive center under threat in northern Mozambique coral reefs. Ecosphere 2017
A priority for modern conservation is finding and managing regions with environmental and biodiversity portfolio characteristics that will promote adaptation and the persistence of species during times of rapid climate change. The latitudinal edges of high-diversity biomes are likely to provide a mixture of environmental gradients and biological diversity that meet the portfolio criteria needed […]
Drivers and predictions of coral reef budget trajectories. Proceedings Of The Royal Society B-biological Sciences 2017
Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the long-term maintenance of coral-dominated tropical ecosystems, and has received considerable attention over the past two decades. Coral bleaching and associated mortality events, which are predicted to become more frequent and intense, can alter the balance of different elements that are responsible for coral reef growth […]
Ecological Underwater Surveys
All information including publications, conference presentations and news items related to underwater ecological surveys is tagged below.
New paper from SPACES team members shows the positive correlation between the orange-lined triggerfish and calcifier cover
SPACES Co-investigators, Tim McClanahan and Nyawira Muthiga, have recently published the paper, Similar impacts of fishing and environmental stress on calcifying organisms in Indian Ocean coral reefs (Open Access– free to read) in the Marine Ecology Progress Series. They investigated coral and calcifier cover in 201 western Indian Ocean reefs. McClanahan and Muthiga found that coral and calcifier cover […]
Aligning Global Indicators for Coral Reef Fisheries Monitoring in the Western Indian Ocean Workshop
Recently, a member of the SPACES team attended a regional workshop in Nosy Be, Madagascar from 27 to 28 April, 2015. The workshop was convened by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Dr Emily Darling with the aim to bring together various researchers working on coral reef fisheries in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). The workshop […]
How important are parrotfish for coral reef islands?
Parrotfishes are a beautiful, colourful and ubiquitous group of fishes that are present on coral reefs around the world. They’ve received a lot of attention due to their importance in both fisheries, and in how they can help to maintain coral reef health through preventing outbreaks of fleshy macroalgae, that can overgrow and out-compete corals. […]