An extensive reef system at the Amazon River mouth.
ABSTRACT: Large rivers create major gaps in reef distribution along tropical shelves. The Amazon River represents 20% of the global riverine discharge to the ocean, generating up to a 1.3 × 10(6)-km(2) plume, and extensive muddy bottoms in the equatorial margin of South America. As a result, a wide area of the tropical North Atlantic is heavily affected in terms of salinity, pH, light penetration, and sedimentation. Such unfavorable conditions were thought to imprint a major gap in Western Atlantic reefs. We present an extensive carbonate system off the Amazon mouth, underneath the river plume. Significant carbonate sedimentation occurred during lowstand sea level, and still occurs in the outer shelf, resulting in complex hard-bottom topography. A permanent near-bottom wedge of ocean water, together with the seasonal nature of the plume's eastward retroflection, conditions the existence of this extensive (~9500 km(2)) hard-bottom mosaic. The Amazon reefs transition from accretive to erosional structures and encompass extensive rhodolith beds. Carbonate structures function as a connectivity corridor for wide depth-ranging reef-associated species, being heavily colonized by large sponges and other structure-forming filter feeders that dwell under low light and high levels of particulates. The oxycline between the plume and subplume is associated with chemoautotrophic and anaerobic microbial metabolisms. The system described here provides several insights about the responses of tropical reefs to suboptimal and marginal reef-building conditions, which are accelerating worldwide due to global changes.
Project description:Understanding habitat-level variation in community structure provides an informed basis for natural resources' management. Reef fishes are a major component of tropical marine biodiversity, but their abundance and distribution are poorly assessed beyond conventional SCUBA diving depths. Based on a baited-video survey of fish assemblages in Southwestern Atlantic's most biodiverse region we show that species composition responded mainly to the two major hard-bottom megahabitats (reefs and rhodolith beds) and to the amount of light reaching the bottom. Both megahabitats encompassed typical reef fish assemblages but, unexpectedly, richness in rhodolith beds and reefs was equivalent. The dissimilar fish biomass and trophic structure in reefs and rhodolith beds indicates that these systems function based on contrasting energy pathways, such as the much lower herbivory recorded in the latter. Rhodolith beds, the dominant benthic megahabitat in the tropical Southwestern Atlantic shelf, play an underrated role as fish habitats, and it is critical that they are considered in conservation planning.
Project description:In recent decades, coral reef ecosystems have declined to the extent that reefs are now threatened globally. While many water quality parameters have been proposed to contribute to reef declines, little evidence exists conclusively linking specific water quality parameters with increased disease prevalence in situ. Here we report evidence from in situ coral health surveys confirming that chronic exposure to dredging-associated sediment plumes significantly increase the prevalence of white syndromes, a devastating group of globally important coral diseases. Coral health surveys were conducted along a dredging-associated sediment plume gradient to assess the relationship between sedimentation, turbidity and coral health. Reefs exposed to the highest number of days under the sediment plume (296 to 347 days) had two-fold higher levels of disease, largely driven by a 2.5-fold increase in white syndromes, and a six-fold increase in other signs of compromised coral health relative to reefs with little or no plume exposure (0 to 9 days). Multivariate modeling and ordination incorporating sediment exposure level, coral community composition and cover, predation and multiple thermal stress indices provided further confirmation that sediment plume exposure level was the main driver of elevated disease and other compromised coral health indicators. This study provides the first evidence linking dredging-associated sedimentation and turbidity with elevated coral disease prevalence in situ. Our results may help to explain observed increases in global coral disease prevalence in recent decades and suggest that minimizing sedimentation and turbidity associated with coastal development will provide an important management tool for controlling coral disease epizootics.
Project description:The Great Amazon Reef (GARS) is an extensive mesophotic reef ecosystem between Brazil and the Caribbean. Despite being considered as one of the most important mesophotic reef ecosystems of the South Atlantic, recent criticism on the existence of a living reef in the Amazon River mouth was raised by some scientists and politicians. The region is coveted for large-scale projects for oil and gas exploration. Here, we add to the increasing knowledge about the GARS by exploring evolutionary aspects of the reef using primary and secondary information on radiocarbon dating from carbonate samples. The results obtained demonstrate that the reef is alive and growing, with living organisms inhabiting the GARS in its totality. Additional studies on net reef growth, habitat diversity, and associated biodiversity are urgently needed to help reconcile economic activities and biodiversity conservation.
Project description:Coral reefs persist in an accretion-erosion balance, which is critical for understanding the natural variability of sediment production, reef accretion, and their effects on the carbonate budget. Bioerosion (i.e. biodegradation of substrate) and encrustation (i.e. calcified overgrowth on substrate) influence the carbonate budget and the ecological functions of coral reefs, by substrate formation/consolidation/erosion, food availability and nutrient cycling. This study investigates settlement succession and carbonate budget change by bioeroding and encrusting calcifying organisms on experimentally deployed coral substrates (skeletal fragments of Stylophora pistillata branches). The substrates were deployed in a marginal coral reef located in the Gulf of Papagayo (Costa Rica, Eastern Tropical Pacific) for four months during the northern winter upwelling period (December 2013 to March 2014), and consecutively sampled after each month. Due to the upwelling environmental conditions within the Eastern Tropical Pacific, this region serves as a natural laboratory to study ecological processes such as bioerosion, which may reflect climate change scenarios. Time-series analyses showed a rapid settlement of bioeroders, particularly of lithophagine bivalves of the genus Lithophaga/Leiosolenus (Dillwyn, 1817), within the first two months of exposure. The observed enhanced calcium carbonate loss of coral substrate (>30%) may influence seawater carbon chemistry. This is evident by measurements of an elevated seawater pH (>8.2) and aragonite saturation state (?arag >3) at Matapalo Reef during the upwelling period, when compared to a previous upwelling event observed at a nearby site in distance to a coral reef (Marina Papagayo). Due to the resulting local carbonate buffer effect of the seawater, an influx of atmospheric CO2 into reef waters was observed. Substrates showed no secondary cements in thin-section analyses, despite constant seawater carbonate oversaturation (?arag >2.8) during the field experiment. Micro Computerized Tomography (?CT) scans and microcast-embeddings of the substrates revealed that the carbonate loss was primarily due to internal macrobioerosion and an increase in microbioerosion. This study emphasizes the interconnected effects of upwelling and carbonate bioerosion on the reef carbonate budget and the ecological turnovers of carbonate producers in tropical coral reefs under environmental change.
Project description: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 and maintenance. The geomorphic impacts of coral mass mortality have received relatively little attention, particularly questions concerning temporal recovery of reef carbonate production and the factors that promote resilience of reef growth potential. Here, we track the biological carbonate budgets of inner Seychelles reefs from 1994 to 2014, spanning the 1998 global bleaching event when these reefs lost more than 90% of coral cover. All 21 reefs had positive budgets in 1994, but in 2005 budgets were predominantly negative. By 2014, carbonate budgets on seven reefs were comparable with 1994, but on all reefs where an ecological regime shift to macroalgal dominance occurred, budgets remained negative through 2014. Reefs with higher massive coral cover, lower macroalgae cover and lower excavating parrotfish biomass in 1994 were more likely to have positive budgets post-bleaching. If mortality of corals from the 2016 bleaching event is as severe as that of 1998, our predictions based on past trends would suggest that six of eight reefs with positive budgets in 2014 would still have positive budgets by 2030. Our results highlight that reef accretion and framework maintenance cannot be assumed from the ecological state alone, and that managers should focus on conserving aspects of coral reefs that support resilient carbonate budgets.
Project description:Oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) has acidified open-ocean surface waters by 0.1 pH units since preindustrial times. Despite unequivocal evidence of ocean acidification (OA) via open-ocean measurements for the past several decades, it has yet to be documented in near-shore and coral reef environments. A lack of long-term measurements from these environments restricts our understanding of the natural variability and controls of seawater CO2-carbonate chemistry and biogeochemistry, which is essential to make accurate predictions on the effects of future OA on coral reefs. Here, in a 5-y study of the Bermuda coral reef, we show evidence that variations in reef biogeochemical processes drive interannual changes in seawater pH and Ωaragonite that are partly controlled by offshore processes. Rapid acidification events driven by shifts toward increasing net calcification and net heterotrophy were observed during the summers of 2010 and 2011, with the frequency and extent of such events corresponding to increased offshore productivity. These events also coincided with a negative winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, which historically has been associated with extensive offshore mixing and greater primary productivity at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site. Our results reveal that coral reefs undergo natural interannual events of rapid acidification due to shifts in reef biogeochemical processes that may be linked to offshore productivity and ultimately controlled by larger-scale climatic and oceanographic processes.
Project description:Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to reduce the calcification rates of marine organisms, yet we have little understanding of how OA will manifest within dynamic, real-world systems. Natural CO(2), alkalinity, and salinity gradients can significantly alter local carbonate chemistry, and thereby create a range of susceptibility for different ecosystems to OA. As such, there is a need to characterize this natural variability of seawater carbonate chemistry, especially within coastal ecosystems. Since 2009, carbonate chemistry data have been collected on the Florida Reef Tract (FRT). During periods of heightened productivity, there is a net uptake of total CO(2) (TCO(2)) which increases aragonite saturation state (?(arag)) values on inshore patch reefs of the upper FRT. These waters can exhibit greater ?(arag) than what has been modeled for the tropical surface ocean during preindustrial times, with mean (± std. error) ?(arag)-values in spring?=?4.69 (±0.101). Conversely, ?(arag)-values on offshore reefs generally represent oceanic carbonate chemistries consistent with present day tropical surface ocean conditions. This gradient is opposite from what has been reported for other reef environments. We hypothesize this pattern is caused by the photosynthetic uptake of TCO(2) mainly by seagrasses and, to a lesser extent, macroalgae in the inshore waters of the FRT. These inshore reef habitats are therefore potential acidification refugia that are defined not only in a spatial sense, but also in time; coinciding with seasonal productivity dynamics. Coral reefs located within or immediately downstream of seagrass beds may find refuge from OA.
Project description:Coral reefs protect islands from tropical storm waves and provide goods and services for millions of islanders worldwide. Yet it is unknown how coral reefs in general, and carbonate production in particular, will respond to sea-level rise and thermal stress associated with climate change. This study compared the reef-building capacity of different shallow-water habitats at twenty-four sites on each of two islands, Palau and Yap, in the western Pacific Ocean. We were particularly interested in estimating the inverse problem of calculating the value of live coral cover at which net carbonate production becomes negative, and whether that value varied across habitats. Net carbonate production varied among habitats, averaging 10.2 kg CaCO3 m-2 y-1 for outer reefs, 12.7 kg CaCO3 m-2 y-1 for patch reefs, and 7.2 kg CaCO3 m-2 y-1 for inner reefs. The value of live coral cover at which net carbonate production became negative varied across habitats, with highest values on inner reefs. These results suggest that some inner reefs tend to produce less carbonate, and therefore need higher coral cover to produce enough carbonate to keep up with sea-level rise than outer and patch reefs. These results also suggest that inner reefs are more vulnerable to sea-level rise than other habitats, which stresses the need for effective land-use practices as the climate continues to change. Averaging across all reef habitats, the rate of carbonate production was 9.7 kg CaCO3 m-2 y-1, or approximately 7.9 mm y-1 of potential vertical accretion. Such rates of vertical accretion are higher than projected averages of sea-level rise for the representative concentration pathway (RCP) climate-change scenarios 2.6, 4.5, and 6, but lower than for the RCP scenario 8.5.
Project description:The fresh water discharged by large rivers such as the Amazon is transported hundreds to thousands of kilometers away from the coast by surface plumes. The nutrients delivered by these river plumes contribute to enhanced primary production in the ocean, and the sinking flux of this new production results in carbon sequestration. Here, we report that the Amazon River plume supports N(2) fixation far from the mouth and provides important pathways for sequestration of atmospheric CO(2) in the western tropical North Atlantic (WTNA). We calculate that the sinking of carbon fixed by diazotrophs in the plume sequesters 1.7 Tmol of C annually, in addition to the sequestration of 0.6 Tmol of C yr(-1) of the new production supported by NO(3) delivered by the river. These processes revise our current understanding that the tropical North Atlantic is a source of 2.5 Tmol of C to the atmosphere [Mikaloff-Fletcher SE, et al. (2007) Inverse estimates of the oceanic sources and sinks of natural CO(2) and the implied oceanic carbon transport. Global Biogeochem Cycles 21, doi:10.1029/2006GB002751]. The enhancement of N(2) fixation and consequent C sequestration by tropical rivers appears to be a global phenomenon that is likely to be influenced by anthropogenic activity and climate change.
Project description:Worldwide, coral reef ecosystems are experiencing increasing pressure from a variety of anthropogenic perturbations including ocean warming and acidification, increased sedimentation, eutrophication, and overfishing, which could shift reefs to a condition of net calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolution and erosion. Herein, we determine the net calcification potential and the relative balance of net organic carbon metabolism (net community production; NCP) and net inorganic carbon metabolism (net community calcification; NCC) within 23 coral reef locations across the globe. In light of these results, we consider the suitability of using these two metrics developed from total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) measurements collected on different spatiotemporal scales to monitor coral reef biogeochemistry under anthropogenic change. All reefs in this study were net calcifying for the majority of observations as inferred from alkalinity depletion relative to offshore, although occasional observations of net dissolution occurred at most locations. However, reefs with lower net calcification potential (i.e., lower TA depletion) could shift towards net dissolution sooner than reefs with a higher potential. The percent influence of organic carbon fluxes on total changes in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) (i.e., NCP compared to the sum of NCP and NCC) ranged from 32% to 88% and reflected inherent biogeochemical differences between reefs. Reefs with the largest relative percentage of NCP experienced the largest variability in seawater pH for a given change in DIC, which is directly related to the reefs ability to elevate or suppress local pH relative to the open ocean. This work highlights the value of measuring coral reef carbonate chemistry when evaluating their susceptibility to ongoing global environmental change and offers a baseline from which to guide future conservation efforts aimed at preserving these valuable ecosystems.