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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.

Eakin, CM, Morgan JA, Heron SF, Smith TB, Liu G, Alvarez-Filip L, Baca B, Bartels E, Bastidas C, Bouchon C, Brandt M, Bruckner AW, Bunkley-Williams L, Cameron A, Causey BD, Chiappone M, Christensen TRL, Crabbe MJC, Day O, de la Guardia E, Diaz-Pulido G, DiResta D, Gil-Agudelo DL, Gilliam DS, Ginsburg RN, Gore S, Guzman HM, Hendee JC, Hernandez-Delgado EA, Husain E, Jeffrey CFG, Jones RJ, Jordan-Dahlgren E, Kaufman LS, Kline DI, Kramer PA, Lang JC, Lirman D, Mallela J, Manfrino C, Marechal JP, Marks K, Mihaly J, Miller WJ, Mueller EM, Muller EM, Toro CAO, Oxenford HA, Ponce-Taylor D, Quinn N, Ritchie KB, Rodriguez S, Ramirez AR, Romano S, Samhouri JF, Sanchez JA, Schmahl GP, Shank BV, Skirving WJ, Steiner SCC, Villamizar E, Walsh SM, Walter C, Weil E, Williams EH, Roberson KW, Yusuf Y.  2010.  Caribbean Corals in Crisis: Record Thermal Stress, Bleaching, and Mortality in 2005. Plos One. 5   10.1371/journal.pone.0013969   AbstractWebsite

Background: The rising temperature of the world's oceans has become a major threat to coral reefs globally as the severity and frequency of mass coral bleaching and mortality events increase. In 2005, high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean resulted in the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin. Methodology/Principal Findings: Satellite-based tools provided warnings for coral reef managers and scientists, guiding both the timing and location of researchers' field observations as anomalously warm conditions developed and spread across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality exceeded prior efforts in detail and extent, and provided a new standard for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing nowcast and forecast products. Collaborators from 22 countries undertook the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date and found that over 80% of corals bleached and over 40% died at many sites. The most severe bleaching coincided with waters nearest a western Atlantic warm pool that was centered off the northern end of the Lesser Antilles. Conclusions/Significance: Thermal stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed from the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in over 150 years. Comparison of satellite data against field surveys demonstrated a significant predictive relationship between accumulated heat stress (measured using NOAA Coral Reef Watch's Degree Heating Weeks) and bleaching intensity. This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems and suggests a troubled future for tropical marine ecosystems under a warming climate.

Mass, T, Kline DI, Roopin M, Veal CJ, Cohen S, Iluz D, Levy O.  2010.  The spectral quality of light is a key driver of photosynthesis and photoadaptation in Stylophora pistillata colonies from different depths in the Red Sea. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213:4084-4091.   10.1242/jeb.039891   AbstractWebsite

Depth zonation on coral reefs is largely driven by the amount of downwelling, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) that is absorbed by the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) of corals. The minimum light requirements of zooxanthellae are related to both the total intensity of downwelling PAR and the spectral quality of the light. Here we used Stylophora pistillata colonies collected from shallow (3 m) and deep (40 m) water; colonies were placed in a respirometer under both ambient PAR irradiance and a filter that only transmits blue light. We found that the colonies exhibited a clear difference in their photosynthetic rates when illuminated under PAR and filtered blue light, with higher photosynthetic performance when deep colonies were exposed to blue light compared with full-spectrum PAR for the same light intensity and duration. By contrast, colonies from shallow water showed the opposite trend, with higher photosynthetic performances under full-spectrum PAR than under filtered blue light. These findings are supported by the absorption spectra of corals, with deeper colonies absorbing higher energy wavelengths than the shallow colonies, with different spectral signatures. Our results indicate that S. pistillata colonies are chromatically adapted to their surrounding light environment, with photoacclimation probably occurring via an increase in photosynthetic pigments rather than algal density. The spectral properties of the downwelling light are clearly a crucial component of photoacclimation that should be considered in future transplantation and photoacclimation studies.

Kuntz, NM, Kline DI, Sandin SA, Rohwer F.  2005.  Pathologies and mortality rates caused by organic carbon and nutrient stressors in three Caribbean coral species. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 294:173-180.   10.3354/meps294173   AbstractWebsite

Anthropogenic inputs, including organic carbon and nutrient loading, are increasingly changing the water quality on coral reefs. Herein we show that treating Montastraea annularis, Agaricia tenuifolia and Porites furcata with various organic carbon sources (starch, lactose, arabinose and mannose) results in different species-specific and carbon-specific pathologies and rates of mortality. The variation in the pathological characteristics caused by stressors showed that visual cues for determining coral health and disease may be misleading. The probability of mortality increased significantly over time with continual exposure to several of the stressors, suggesting that chronic stressors may be more harmful than acute stressors. In contrast to the organic carbon sources, high concentrations of nutrients (phosphate, ammonium and nitrate) did not directly kill corals. The variation in coral responses to anthropogenic stressors means that changes on disturbed coral reefs will depend on the type of and duration of exposure to the stressor, as well as on the species of coral.