Interactions of scleractinian corals with Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts at two sites and depths in Great Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI as recorded in August 2019 and January 2020

Website: https://www.bco-dmo.org/dataset/836304
Data Type: Other Field Results
Version: 1
Version Date: 2021-01-13

Project
» RUI-LTREB Renewal: Three decades of coral reef community dynamics in St. John, USVI: 2014-2019 (RUI-LTREB)
» Collaborative Research: Pattern and process in the abundance and recruitment of Caribbean octocorals (Octocoral Community Dynamics)
ContributorsAffiliationRole
Edmunds, Peter J.California State University Northridge (CSU-Northridge)Principal Investigator
Williams, Megan K.California State University Northridge (CSU-Northridge)Co-Principal Investigator
Gerlach, Dana StuartWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI BCO-DMO)BCO-DMO Data Manager
Heyl, TaylorWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI BCO-DMO)BCO-DMO Data Manager

Abstract
Interactions of scleractinian corals with Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts were recorded at two sites and depth in Great Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI. Since PAC in St. John is more abundant in shallow (3–5 m) versus deep (5–9 m) water, surveys were designed to contrast PAC between depths (3 and 9 meters). The first categorization of coral-PAC interactions at the Cabritte Horn and Tektite sites was August 2019, and the re-categorization was January 2020.


Coverage

Spatial Extent: N:18.31095 E:-64.7213 S:18.30702 W:-64.7219
Temporal Extent: 2019-08 - 2020-01

Dataset Description

Replicate: Replicate number (1 to 80) is the unique identification for each individual interaction between a scleractinian and PAC that was categorized in August 2019 and re-categorized in January 2020 in order determine if the interaction type changed over time.

Site:  The two sites within Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI where coral-PAC interactions were categorized in August 2019 and again in January 2020 (Cabritte Horn or Tektite).

Depth:  Depth in meters (either 3 or 9 m) at the site where coral-PAC interactions were categorized in August 2019 and again in January 2020.

August_Categorization:  The initial categorization of the coral-PAC interaction as observed in August 2019. Categories are "PAC overgrowing coral", "neutral", and "coral overgrowing PAC". 

January_Categorization:  The re-categorization of the coral-PAC interaction as observed in January 2020. Categories are "PAC overgrowing coral", "neutral", and "coral overgrowing PAC". 

Related datasets for Edmunds and Williams (2021) Coral Reefs publication:
Figure 2a, https://www.bco-dmo.org/dataset/836071
Figure 2b, https://www.bco-dmo.org/dataset/836097
Figure 3, https://www.bco-dmo.org/dataset/836164

 

Acquisition Description

Overview
        This study took place on the south shore of St. John, and surveys were completed in August 2019 and January 2020 at Cabritte Horn and Tektite on the eastern side of Great Lameshur Bay. These sites were selected because the abundance of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts (PAC) has been measured in these locations since 2015, and the high abundance of PAC created a tractable system to test for the outcomes of PAC-coral interactions. The coral community structure in St. John from 1987-present is described elsewhere, but in brief, coral cover has been < 4.5% at six sites since 1992, but at two other sites, it has declined from 45% to 4% (Yawzi Point) and 32% to 27% (Tektite) from 1987–2019. Over the same period, the cover of macroalgae has increased, and the rest of the hard substratum has remained covered by crustose coralline algae, turf algae, and bare rock (combined as “CTB”). The high abundance of igneous rock on these reefs provides substratum suitable for growth of PAC. As PAC in St. John is more abundant in shallow (3–5 m) versus deep (5–9 m) water, surveys were designed to contrast PAC between depths. Sampling along a 15 m transect at each site and depth was used to evaluate PAC abundance, growth, and competitive encounters. 

Coral-PAC interactions
        As described above, coral-PAC interactions were haphazardly selected for tagging as encountered along the transect. These interactions were < 1 m from the transect, and represented cases where scleractinian tissue was contacting PAC, and included cases when PAC already was overtopping coral tissue. Interactions were tagged regardless of the species of coral or length of the contact zone with PAC. Therefore, coral species and their interactions with PAC were sampled according to the relative abundances of these interactions in the community. The tagging of coral-PAC interactions was restricted to coral colonies > 4 cm diameter in order to minimize the effects of high coral mortality attributed to small size alone. Corals were identified to species, and interactions were categorized as: (a) “PAC overgrowing coral” when the PAC was on top of coral tissue, (b) “coral overgrowing PAC'' when coral tissue and skeleton were over-topping PAC, or (c) “neutral” when the coral and PAC met, but neither was overgrowing the other.

The scheme of categorical ranking of coral-PAC interactions was used to determine whether different interaction types had equal chances for complete overgrowth of the coral by PAC. In January 2020, the tagged coral-PAC interactions were again located (described above) to evaluate their status. When the study began, we assumed from the 3-fold increase in PAC coverage recorded on these reefs over 2 years that at least some of the tagged corals would be fully overgrown by PAC within 6 months. This assumption was incorrect with respect to our results and, therefore, it was not possible to score the tagged corals for the number that had become overgrown by PAC by January 2020. Instead, the corals were categorized on the same scale as used in August 2019 to test for changes in their relative rankings of interactions with PAC.

Statistical analyses
Assuming that the coral-PAC interactions encountered along the transect lines effectively were randomly selected, their frequency of occurrence in August 2019 was tested for independence among depths (3 m vs 9 m), sites (Tektite vs Cabritte Horn), and interaction type (described above) using log-linear analysis. This was used to determine whether the frequency of each interaction type could be compared between times (August 2019 vs January 2020) with a model simplified by pooling among depths and sites, with the rationale that these effects were not significant.

Statistical analyses were completed using the open-source software R ver. 3.5.1, with lme4 and Matrix packages for log-linear analysis, and DescTools for the G-test. Statistical assumptions of ANOVA were tested using graphical analysis of the residuals.


Processing Description

BCO-DMO Processing:
- added conventional header with dataset name, PI name, version date
- modified parameter names to conform with BCO-DMO naming conventions
- added Latitude and Longitude columns
- units removed from field names and added to Parameter Description metadata section


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Supplemental Files

File
Linear growth and competitive ability of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts aggregated metadata description
filename: Linear-growth-competitive-ability-PAC.pdf
(Portable Document Format (.pdf), 138.53 KB)
MD5:d74953b90eaed49c67e84413927dc403
Overview of Williams & Edmunds Linear growth and competitive ability of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts (aggregated metadata summary)

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Related Publications

R Core Team (2019). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R v3.5.1. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL https://www.R-project.org/
Software
Williams, M. K. & Edmunds, P. J. (2021). Reconciling slow linear growth and equivocal competitive ability with rapid spread of peyssonnelid algae in the Caribbean. Coral Reefs (manuscript submitted for publication)
Results

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Related Datasets

IsRelatedTo
Williams, M. K., Edmunds, P. J. (2021) Growth rate of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts at two sites and depths in Great Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI as recorded in August 2019 and January 2020. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2021-01-12 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.836097.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Williams, M. K., Edmunds, P. J. (2021) Growth rate of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts on terracotta settlement tiles at five sites across Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI from 2009 onward. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2021-01-13 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.836164.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Williams, M. K., Edmunds, P. J. (2021) Percent cover of Peyssonnelid Algal Crusts at two sites and depths in Great Lameshur Bay, St. John, USVI from July and August 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2021-01-12 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.836071.1 [view at BCO-DMO]

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Parameters

ParameterDescriptionUnits
ReplicateReplicate number (1 to 80) is the unique identification for each individual margin of PAC unitless
SiteStudy site unitless
DepthDepth meters
August_CategorizationCategorization of the interaction between PAC and coral unitless
January_CategorizationCategorization of the interaction between PAC and coral unitless
LatitudeLatitude of Study Site degrees North
LongitudeLongitude of Study Site degrees East


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Instruments

Dataset-specific Instrument Name
Generic Instrument Name
Camera
Generic Instrument Description
All types of photographic equipment including stills, video, film and digital systems.

Dataset-specific Instrument Name
calipers
Generic Instrument Name
calipers
Generic Instrument Description
A caliper (or "pair of calipers") is a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object. Many types of calipers permit reading out a measurement on a ruled scale, a dial, or a digital display.

Dataset-specific Instrument Name
Vibra-Probe 580, Treasure Products
Generic Instrument Name
Metal Detector
Dataset-specific Description
Vibra-Probe 580 Pinpointer is a Pulse Induction Electronic probe manufactured by Treasure Products, Inc.  It is used for target pinpointing both on land and underwater, where it remains waterproof to a depth of 100 feet.  
Generic Instrument Description
A metal detector is an electronic instrument that detects the presence of metal nearby. Metal detectors are useful for finding metal inclusions hidden within objects, or metal objects buried underground. They often consist of a handheld unit with a sensor probe which can be swept over the ground or other objects.


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Project Information

RUI-LTREB Renewal: Three decades of coral reef community dynamics in St. John, USVI: 2014-2019 (RUI-LTREB)


Coverage: USVI


Describing how ecosystems like coral reefs are changing is at the forefront of efforts to evaluate the biological consequences of global climate change and ocean acidification. Coral reefs have become the poster child of these efforts. Amid concern that they could become ecologically extinct within a century, describing what has been lost, what is left, and what is at risk, is of paramount importance. This project exploits an unrivalled legacy of information beginning in 1987 to evaluate the form in which reefs will persist, and the extent to which they will be able to resist further onslaughts of environmental challenges. This long-term project continues a 27-year study of Caribbean coral reefs. The diverse data collected will allow the investigators to determine the roles of local and global disturbances in reef degradation. The data will also reveal the structure and function of reefs in a future with more human disturbances, when corals may no longer dominate tropical reefs.

The broad societal impacts of this project include advancing understanding of an ecosystem that has long been held emblematic of the beauty, diversity, and delicacy of the biological world. Proposed research will expose new generations of undergraduate and graduate students to natural history and the quantitative assessment of the ways in which our planet is changing. This training will lead to a more profound understanding of contemporary ecology at the same time that it promotes excellence in STEM careers and supports technology infrastructure in the United States. Partnerships will be established between universities and high schools to bring university faculty and students in contact with k-12 educators and their students, allow teachers to carry out research in inspiring coral reef locations, and motivate children to pursue STEM careers. Open access to decades of legacy data will stimulate further research and teaching.


Collaborative Research: Pattern and process in the abundance and recruitment of Caribbean octocorals (Octocoral Community Dynamics)

Coverage: St. John, US Virgin Islands


NSF abstract:
Coral reefs are exposed to a diversity of natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and the consequences for ecosystem degradation have been widely publicized. However, the reported changes have been biased towards fishes and stony corals, and for Caribbean reefs, the most notable example of this bias are octocorals ("soft corals"). Although they are abundant and dominate many Caribbean reefs, they are rarely included in studies due to the difficulty of both identifying them and in quantifying their abundances. In some places there is compelling evidence that soft corals have increased in abundance, even while stony corals have become less common. This suggests that soft corals are more resilient than stony corals to the wide diversity of disturbances that have been impacting coral corals. The best coral reefs on which to study these changes are those that have been studied for decades and can provide a decadal context to more recent events, and in this regard the reefs of St. John, US Virgin Islands are unique. Stony corals on the reefs have been studied since 1987, and the soft corals from 2014. This provides unrivalled platform to evaluate patterns of octocoral abundance and recruitment; identify the patterns of change that are occurring on these reefs, and identify the processes responsible for the resilience of octocoral populations. The project will extend soft coral monitoring from 4 years to 8 years, and within this framework will examine the roles of baby corals, and their response to seafloor roughness, seawater flow, and seaweed, in determining the success of soft corals. The work will also assess whether the destructive effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria have modified the pattern of change. In concert with these efforts the project will be closely integrated with local high schools at which the investigators will host marine biology clubs and provide independent study opportunities for their students and teachers. Unique training opportunities will be provided to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a postdoctoral researcher, all of whom will study and work in St. John, and the investigators will train coral reef researchers to identify the species of soft corals through a hands-on workshop to be conducted in the Florida Keys.

Understanding how changing environmental conditions will affect the community structure of major biomes is the ecological objective defining the 21st century. The holistic effects of these conditions on coral reefs will be studied on shallow reefs within the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, US Virgin Islands, which is the site of one of the longest-running, long-term studies of coral reef community dynamics in the region. With NSF-LTREB support, the investigators have been studying long-term changes in stony coral communities in this location since 1987, and in 2014 NSF-OCE support was used to build an octocoral "overlay" to this decadal perspective. The present project extends from this unique history, which has been punctuated by the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, to place octocoral synecology in a decadal context, and the investigators exploit a rich suite of legacy data to better understand the present and immediate future of Caribbean coral reefs. This four-year project will advance on two concurrent fronts: first, to extend time-series analyses of octocoral communities from four to eight years to characterize the pattern and pace of change in community structure, and second, to conduct a program of hypothesis-driven experiments focused on octocoral settlement that will uncover the mechanisms allowing octocorals to more effectively colonize substrata than scleractinian corals on present day reefs. Specifically, the investigators will conduct mensurative and manipulative experiments addressing four hypotheses focusing on the roles of: (1) habitat complexity in distinguishing between octocoral and scleractinian recruitment niches, (2) the recruitment niche in mediating post-settlement success, (3) competition in algal turf and macroalgae in determining the success of octocoral and scleractian recruits, and (4) role of octocoral canopies in modulating the flux of particles and larvae to the seafloor beneath. The results of this study will be integrated to evaluate the factors driving higher ecological resilience of octocorals versus scleractinians on present-day Caribbean reefs.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.



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Funding

Funding SourceAward
NSF Division of Environmental Biology (NSF DEB)
NSF Division of Ocean Sciences (NSF OCE)

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