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Nash, MC, Opdyke BN, Troitzsch U, Russell BD, Adey WH, Kato A, Diaz-Pulido G, Brent C, Gardner M, Prichard J, Kline DI.  2013.  Dolomite rich coral reef coralline algae resist dissolution in acidified conditions.. Nature Climate Change. 3:268-272.   10.1038/nclimate1760   Abstract

Coral reef ecosystems develop best in high-flow environments but their fragile frameworks are also vulnerable to high wave energy. Wave-resistant algal rims, predominantly made up of the crustose coralline algae (CCA) Porolithon onkodes and P. pachydermum1, 2, are therefore critical structural elements for the survival of many shallow coral reefs. Concerns are growing about the susceptibility of CCA to ocean acidification because CCA Mg-calcite skeletons are more susceptible to dissolution under low pH conditions than coral aragonite skeletons3. However, the recent discovery4 of dolomite (Mg0.5Ca0.5(CO3)), a stable carbonate5, in P. onkodes cells necessitates a reappraisal of the impacts of ocean acidification on these CCA. Here we show, using a dissolution experiment, that dried dolomite-rich CCA have 6–10 times lower rates of dissolution than predominantly Mg-calcite CCA in both high-CO2 (~ 700 ppm) and control (~ 380 ppm) environments, respectively. We reveal this stabilizing mechanism to be a combination of reduced porosity due to dolomite infilling and selective dissolution of other carbonate minerals. Physical break-up proceeds by dissolution of Mg-calcite walls until the dolomitized cell eventually drops out intact. Dolomite-rich CCA frameworks are common in shallow coral reefs globally and our results suggest that it is likely that they will continue to provide protection and stability for coral reef frameworks as CO2

Nash, MC, Troitzsch U, Opdyke BN, Trafford JM, Russell BD, Kline DI.  2011.  First discovery of dolomite and magnesite in living coralline algae and its geobiological implications. Biogeosciences. 8:3331-3340.   10.5194/bg-8-3331-2011   AbstractWebsite

Dolomite is a magnesium-rich carbonate mineral abundant in fossil carbonate reef platforms but surprisingly rare in modern sedimentary environments, a conundrum known as the "Dolomite Problem". Marine sedimentary dolomite has been interpreted to form by an unconfirmed, post-depositional diagenetic process, despite minimal experimental success at replicating this. Here we show that dolomite, accompanied by magnesite, forms within living crustose coralline alga, Hydrolithon onkodes, a prolific global tropical reef species. Chemical micro-analysis of the coralline skeleton reveals that not only are the cell walls calcitised, but that cell spaces are typically filled with magnesite, rimmed by dolomite, or both. Mineralogy was confirmed by X-ray Diffraction. Thus there are at least three mineral phases present (magnesium calcite, dolomite and magnesite) rather than one or two (magnesium calcite and brucite) as previously thought. Our results are consistent with dolomite occurrences in coralline algae rich environments in fossil reefs of the last 60 million years. We reveal that the standard method of removing organic material prior to Xray Diffraction analysis can result in a decrease in the most obvious dolomite and magnesite diffraction patterns and this may explain why the abundant protodolomite and magnesite discovered in this study has not previously been recognized. This discovery of dolomite in living coralline algae extends the range of palaeo-environments for which biologically initiated dolomite can be considered a possible source of primary dolomite.

Neal, BP, Khen A, Treibitz T, Beijbom O, O'Connor G, Coffroth MA, Knowlton N, Kriegman D, Mitchell BG, Kline DI.  2017.  Caribbean massive corals not recovering from repeated thermal stress events during 2005-2013. Ecology and Evolution. 7:1339-1353.   10.1002/ece3.2706   AbstractWebsite

Massive coral bleaching events associated with high sea surface temperatures are forecast to become more frequent and severe in the future due to climate change. Monitoring colony recovery from bleaching disturbances over multiyear time frames is important for improving predictions of future coral community changes. However, there are currently few multiyear studies describing long-term outcomes for coral colonies following acute bleaching events. We recorded colony pigmentation and size for bleached and unbleached groups of co-located conspecifics of three major reef-building scleractinian corals (Orbicella franksi, Siderastrea siderea, and Stephanocoenia michelini; n=198 total) in Bocas del Toro, Panama, during the major 2005 bleaching event and then monitored pigmentation status and changes live tissue colony size for 8years (2005-2013). Corals that were bleached in 2005 demonstrated markedly different response trajectories compared to unbleached colony groups, with extensive live tissue loss for bleached corals of all species following bleaching, with mean live tissue losses per colony 9 months postbleaching of 26.2% (+/- 5.4 SE) for O. franksi, 35.7% (+/- 4.7 SE) for S. michelini, and 11.2% (+/- 3.9 SE) for S. siderea. Two species, O. franksi and S. michelini, later recovered to net positive growth, which continued until a second thermal stress event in 2010. Following this event, all species again lost tissue, with previously unbleached colony species groups experiencing greater declines than conspecific sample groups, which were previously bleached, indicating a possible positive acclimative response. However, despite this beneficial effect for previously bleached corals, all groups experienced substantial net tissue loss between 2005 and 2013, indicating that many important Caribbean reef-building corals will likely suffer continued tissue loss and may be unable to maintain current benthic coverage when faced with future thermal stress forecast for the region, even with potential benefits from bleaching-related acclimation.

Neal, BP, Condit C, Liu G, dos Santos S, Kahru M, Mitchell BG, Kline DI.  2014.  When depth is no refuge: cumulative thermal stress increases with depth in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Coral Reefs. 33:193-205.   10.1007/s00338-013-1081-6   AbstractWebsite

Coral reefs are increasingly affected by high-temperature stress events and associated bleaching. Monitoring and predicting these events have largely utilized sea surface temperature data, due to the convenience of using large-scale remotely sensed satellite measurements. However, coral bleaching has been observed to vary in severity throughout the water column, and variations in coral thermal stress across depths have not yet been well investigated. In this study, in situ water temperature data from 1999 to 2011 from three depths were used to calculate thermal stress on a coral reef in Bahia Almirante, Bocas del Toro, Panama, which was compared to satellite surface temperature data and thermal stress calculations for the same area and time period from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch Satellite Bleaching Alert system. The results show similar total cumulative annual thermal stress for both the surface and depth-stratified data, but with a striking difference in the distribution of that stress among the depth strata during different high-temperature events, with the greatest thermal stress unusually recorded at the deepest measured depth during the most severe bleaching event in 2005. Temperature records indicate that a strong density-driven temperature inversion may have formed in this location in that year, contributing to the persistence and intensity of bleaching disturbance at depth. These results indicate that depth may not provide a stress refuge from high water temperature events in some situations, and in this case, the water properties at depth appear to have contributed to greater coral bleaching at depth compared to near-surface locations. This case study demonstrates the importance of incorporating depth-stratified temperature monitoring and small-scale oceanographic and hydrologic data for understanding and predicting local reef responses to elevated water temperature events.

Neal, BP, Lin TH, Winter RN, Treibitz T, Beijbom O, Kriegman D, Kline DI, Mitchell BG.  2015.  Methods and measurement variance for field estimations of coral colony planar area using underwater photographs and semi-automated image. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 187   10.1007/s10661-015-4690-4   AbstractWebsite

Size and growth rates for individual colonies are some of the most essential descriptive parameters for understanding coral communities, which are currently experiencing worldwide declines in health and extent. Accurately measuring coral colony size and changes over multiple years can reveal demographic, growth, or mortality patterns often not apparent from shortterm observations and can expose environmental stress responses that may take years to manifest. Describing community size structure can reveal population dynamics patterns, such as periods of failed recruitment or patterns of colony fission, which have implications for the future sustainability of these ecosystems. However, rapidly and non-invasively measuring coral colony sizes in situ remains a difficult task, as three-dimensional underwater digital reconstruction methods are currently not practical for large numbers of colonies. Twodimensional (2D) planar area measurements from projection of underwater photographs are a practical size proxy, although this method presents operational difficulties in obtaining well-controlled photographs in the highly rugose environment of the coral reef, and requires extensive time for image processing. Here, we present and test the measurement variance for a method of making rapid planar area estimates of small to medium-sized coral colonies using a lightweight monopod image-framing system and a custom semiautomated image segmentation analysis program. This method demonstrated a coefficient of variation of 2.26 % for repeated measurements in realistic ocean conditions, a level of error appropriate for rapid, inexpensive field studies of coral size structure, inferring change in colony size over time, or measuring bleaching or disease extent of large numbers of individual colonies.