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Coral colony tissue damage in six species of reef-building corals: partial mortality in relation with depth and surface area
Meesters, E.H.; Wesseling, I.; Bak, R.P.M. (1997). Coral colony tissue damage in six species of reef-building corals: partial mortality in relation with depth and surface area. J. Sea Res. 37(1-2): 131-144
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101; e-ISSN 1873-1414, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Meesters, E.H., more
  • Wesseling, I.
  • Bak, R.P.M.

    Partial mortality and its relation with colony size was assessed in colonies of 6 species of reef-building corals (Scleractinia) at three sites in 2 depth zones, reef terrace (7 m) and fore-reef slope (18 m), on the fringing reefs of Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Partial mortality is manifest on coral colonies as tissue lesions which have not been closed by the surrounding tissue. Two types of lesions were distinguished: (1) Type I lesions, completely enclosed by living tissue, and (2) Type II lesions, not completely surrounded by tissue and open to the edge of the colony. These lesion types differed in occurrence and lesion size-frequency distributions, as well as in relation to variation in colony surface area and morphology. The percentage of undamaged colonies decreased with increasing colony size and lesion number increased logarithmically with colony surface area. Larger colonies have little chance to escape partial mortality. The abundance of Type I lesions was significantly less on the reef slope, while the number of Type II lesions was greater. This is probably caused by a relative increase of the colony circumference because colony height is reduced on the reef slope. Median lesion sizes ranged from 0.5 to 3 cm² for Type I lesions and from 2 to 60 cm² for Type II lesions. Type II lesions covered a much larger colony area than Type I lesions, suggesting that bottom-associated causes are relatively important with respect to partial mortality. Species and colonies with large circumference relative to total colony surface area, such as plate-like and small colonies, were particularly susceptible to partial mortality by Type II lesions. Whole-colony mortality rate of small juvenile corals was very high, but dropped abruptly with increasing size, probably at the time that growth direction changes from horizontal to vertical. This 'escape in height' makes corals less susceptible to partial mortality and represents an important life history characteristic. There were important differences between the species. These are explained, after collecting for variation in colony size (surface area), by differences in colony morphology and lesion regeneration potential.

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