Benthic invertebrate abundances associated with octocoral forests in St. John, US Virgin Islands from July 2019 to Jan 2020

Website: https://www.bco-dmo.org/dataset/892248
Data Type: Other Field Results
Version: 1
Version Date: 2023-03-21

Project
» Collaborative Research: Pattern and process in the abundance and recruitment of Caribbean octocorals (Octocoral Community Dynamics)
» RUI: Pattern and process in four decades of change on Caribbean reefs (St John Coral Reefs)
ContributorsAffiliationRole
Edmunds, Peter J.California State University Northridge (CSUN)Principal Investigator
Girard, JohnCalifornia State University Northridge (CSUN)Student
York, Amber D.Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI BCO-DMO)BCO-DMO Data Manager

Abstract
These data represent the benthic invertebrates counted in association with various octocoral canopies as well as the composition of individual octocorals and the physical parameters (mean height, mean closure, and density) of octocoral canopies. These data were used to test for the association of benthic invertebrate communities across a gradient of octocoral forest formation. Arborescent octocorals were excluded from invertebrate counts used to test for community association. Benthic surveys of invertebrates and octocoral forests were conducted on SCUBA during July – August of 2019 and in January of 2020 using the same quadrats (1 m2) placed at ≤ 13-m depth. These data were collected as part of an NSF Coral Reef Time Series, Virgin Islands: Long-term coral reef community dynamics in the Virgin Islands National Park and were published in Girard and Edmunds (2023).


Coverage

Spatial Extent: N:18.3154 E:-64.7186 S:18.307 W:-64.7313
Temporal Extent: 2019-07-26 - 2020-01-27

Methods & Sampling

This research was conducted from the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Station in Lameshur Bay St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands at depth ≤ 13 m during July – August 2019 and January 2020.

Methods & Sampling:

Benthic surveys of invertebrates and octocoral forests were conducted using the same quadrats (1 m2) on SCUBA during July – August of 2019 and in January of 2020 placed at ≤ 13-m depth. Quadrats were randomly placed along 20 m, non-overlapping transects that were positioned haphazardly along fringing reefs.Unitary organisms were recorded as individuals, and encrusting modular organisms were counted by the number of autonomous patches of biomass, with both expressed as organisms quadrat-1. Organisms were identified in situ or with reference photos (18.2 megapixels) using field guides (Humann et al., 2013), expert opinion (mostly for sponges), and an electronic reference catalog (Zea et al., 2014). Surveys were conducted at the Cabritte Horn, Tektite, and White Point study sites. Arborescent octocorals with their holdfasts present in the quadrat were measured and contributed to mean height, and density of octocoral canopy measurements. Octocoral height was quantified by measuring the distance from hold fast to to the most distal branch perpendicular to the benthos.

Canopy closure was quantified using a modified method from (Jennings et. al. 1999) whereby a GoPro Hero 3+ camera with a 130° field of view (manufacturer’s specification, Go-Pro., Inc. San Mateo, CA) was used to record still images in the center, and at each of the four corners, of quadrats, with all five images quadrat-1 recorded within < 5 minutes. To avoid biases in estimating canopy closure caused by adjacent non-living substrata (e.g., boulders and rock walls), images were excluded when they included these features. Images were analyzed using ImageJ software (v1.52a, Schneider et al., 2012), in which 300 randomly located dots (~ 0.5 pixel in diameter) were superimposed on each image. The number of dots on the octocoral canopy were counted and expressed as a percentage of the dot population. This metric was used to quantify canopy closure, and the results from the five images quadrat-1 were averaged to characterize each quadrat.

Instruments:

PVC Quadrats (1 m2)
Transect tapes
Measuring ribbons with mm graduations
GoPro Hero 3+ camera
Sony Cybershot DSC-WX300/B


Data Processing Description

To calculate canopy closure images were analyzed using ImageJ software (v1.52a, Schneider et al., 2012), in which 300 randomly located dots (~ 0.5 pixel in diameter) were superimposed on each image. The number of dots on the octocoral canopy were counted and expressed as a percentage of the dot population. To aid in the quantification of dots a grid of twenty squares was superimposed on the image. Each "box" was scored for the number of points in it that fell on the octocoral canopy. All twenty boxes for each image were summed for the total points out of 300 falling on the octocoral canopy.

BCO-DMO Data Manager Processing Notes:
* Source file "St.John_BenthicInvertebrates_Octocoral Forests.csv" imported into the BCO-DMO data system
* Column names adjusted to conform to BCO-DMO naming conventions designed to support broad re-use by a variety of research tools and scripting languages. [Only numbers, letters, and underscores.  Can not start with a number]
* Column names with taxonomic names matched to known names in the World Register of marine species (WoRMS) using the taxa match tool on 2023-01-13.  A supplemental table was added including the names used in column names of this dataset, and the matched AphiaID, LSID and accepted name.
* lat and lon added to the data from a site list
* Date format converted to ISO 8601 format
* Mean closure rounded to 4 decimal places and mean octocoral height rounded to two decimal places.


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Data Files

File
Benthic Invertebrate Abundance
filename: benthic_invert_abund.csv
(Comma Separated Values (.csv), 23.81 KB)
MD5:a38e78a55aabeee8d0650f222cb5105b
This is the primary data table for dataset 892248 see "Parameters" section for full column information.

See supplemental file "Taxonomic Identifiers" for more information about taxonimic names in each column.

The corresponding photos for each site, transect number and quadrat number are provided as supplemental files (see "Photo Inventory" and Girard_and_Edmunds_2023_supporting_photos.zip).

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Supplemental Files

File
Photo inventory
filename: photo_inventory.csv
(Comma Separated Values (.csv), 148.68 KB)
MD5:2bdcfdff1945b4e75048f03870524b7b
Photo inventory table for files within Girard_and_Edmunds_2023_supporting_photos.zip

This table has columns:
filename, file name
relative_filepath, relative path inside the zip file
filesize_bytes, filesize in bytes
md5sum, checksum of image file
Site, site name
Quadrat_Num, quadrat number
Transect_Num, transect number
Year, year (YYYY)
lat, site latitude in decimal degrees
lon, site longitude in decimal degrees
Category, description of survey type (Closure, Community, etc).

The site, transect number and quadrat number correspond to the values in the main data table "Benthic Invertebrate Abundance."
Site List
filename: site_list.csv
(Comma Separated Values (.csv), 192 bytes)
MD5:4415feb2d663fc251a671a2a7c5cac04
Site list for all dataset related to the results publication Girard and Edmunds (2023).

Parameters (column names, descriptions, and units):

Site, Site name used in dataset related to Girard and Edmunds (2023),unitless
lat, Site latitude,decimal degrees
lon,Site longitude,decimal degrees
Alternate_name, Alternate name for the site,unitless
Supporting Photos for Girard and Edmunds (2023)
filename: Girard_and_Edmunds_2023_supporting_photos.zip
(ZIP Archive (ZIP), 3.77 GB)
MD5:55008bec5933c4c2eefb45f7a7824d39
See "photo_inventory.csv" for a full file listing within this photo zip file. Photo inventory also includes site and quadrat information.
Taxonomic Identifers
filename: taxon_identifiers.csv
(Comma Separated Values (.csv), 9.42 KB)
MD5:86e7a0edf7cc84cdfc5d74844eabb2a3
Taxon identifiers (AphiaID and LSID) used in this dataset. Generated using the World Register of Species taxa match tool performed 2023-01-13.

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Related Publications

Girard, J. F., & Edmunds, P. J. (2023). Effects of arborescent octocoral assemblages on the understory benthic communities of shallow Caribbean reefs. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 561, 151870. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2023.151870
Results
GoPro (2013). Hero 3 silver edition: user manual. 1–62. https://gopro.com/content/dam/help/hero3-silver-edition/manuals/HERO3_Silver_UM_ENG_RevC_web.pdf. Accessed: 21/Dec/2022
Methods

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Related Datasets

IsRelatedTo
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Canopy closure values from photographs taken within octocoral forests in Lameshur Bay St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands from July 2019 to Jan 2020. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892258.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Canopy closure values from photographs taken within octocoral forestsalong the south shore of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in March of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892323.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Light intensity (lux) of downwelling light upon the benthos along differing conditions of octocoral canopy formation in East Cabritte, in Grootpan Bay, St. John U.S. Virgin Islands in March of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892300.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Light intensity (lux) of downwelling light upon the benthos along differing conditions of octocoral canopy formation in Lameshur Bay St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in March of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892272.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Octocoral canopy metrics (mean height, density, and closure) in St. John, US Virgin Islands in March of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892293.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Octocoral height, density, and genera from in situ observations within octocoral forests in Lameshur Bay St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands from July 2019 to Jan 2020. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892265.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Pulse Amplitude Modulation (PAM) fluorometer measurements from Porites astreoides colonies in St. John, US Virgin Islands from July to August of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892279.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Simultaneous light intensity measurements from a HOBO light intensity logger and a cosine-corrected PAR sensor in Lameshur Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in January of 2021. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892308.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.
Girard, J., Edmunds, P. J. (2023) Steady state photosynthesis (photosynthetic induction time) from Porites astreoides colonies in St. John, US Virgin Islands from July to August of 2019. Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO). (Version 1) Version Date 2023-03-21 doi:10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.892286.1 [view at BCO-DMO]
Relationship Description: Octocoral measurements and invertebrate counts were done in the same quadrats. Therefore, the quadrat IDs correspond to each other across community & canopy data sets.

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Parameters

ParameterDescriptionUnits
DateDate sample was taken in ISO 8601 format. unitless
SiteSite name unitless
latSite latitude decimal degrees
lonSite longitude decimal degrees
Transect_NumTransect number at site unitless
Quadrat_NumQuadrat number on transect unitless
Quadrat_DepthDepth below the water's surface where the quadrat was placed meters (m)
Quadrat_IDCode to quickly identify quadrats. Letter is the first letter of the site and the number reflects the quadrat number at that site unitless
Mean_height_Octocorals_gt_50mmMean height of octocoral greater than 50mm Tall mm
Densty_Octocorals_gt_50mmDensity of Octocorals greater than 50 mm Tall individuals per meter squared (#/m2)
Mean_ClosureProportion of sky abscured by octocoral branched in quadrats. Averaged from 5 closure photos within the quadrat unitless
Num_of_Benthic_InvertebratesTotal count of benthic invertebrates per individual
Num_of_TaxaTotal number of different taxonomic units per taxon
Acropora_cervicornisCount of Acropora cervicornis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Acropora_palmataCount of Acropora palmata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Agaricia_agaricitesCount of Agaricia agaricites individuals within the quadrat per individual
Agaricia_lamarckiCount of Agaricia lamarcki individuals within the quadrat per individual
Agaricia_humilisCount of Agaricia humilis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Agaricia_fragilisCount of Agaricia fragilis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Dichocoenia_stokesiCount of Dichocoenia stokesi individuals within the quadrat per individual
Colpophyllia_natansCount of Colpophyllia natans individuals within the quadrat per individual
Dendrogyra_cylindrusCount of Dendrogyra cylindrus individuals within the quadrat per individual
Diploria_labyrinthiformisCount of Diploria labyrinthiformis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Pseudodiploria_strigosaCount of Pseudodiploria strigosa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Eusmilia_fastigiataCount of Eusmilia fastigiata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Favia_fragumCount of Favia fragum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Leptoseris_helioseris_cucullataCount of Leptoseris (helioseris) cucullata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Isophyllia_sinuosaCount of Isophyllia sinuosa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Manicina_areolataCount of Manicina areolata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Madracis_decactisCount of Madracis decactis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Madracis_mirabilis_auretenraCount of Madracis mirabilis (auretenra) individuals within the quadrat per individual
Montastrea_cavernosaCount of Montastrea cavernosa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Meandrina_meandritesCount of Meandrina meandrites individuals within the quadrat per individual
Mussa_angulosaCount of Mussa angulosa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Mycetophyllia_aliciaeCount of Mycetophyllia aliciae individuals within the quadrat per individual
Mycetophyllia_lamarckianaCount of Mycetophyllia lamarckiana individuals within the quadrat per individual
Orbicella_annularisCount of Orbicella annularis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Orbicella_faveolataCount of Orbicella faveolata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Orbicella_franksiCount of Orbicella franksi individuals within the quadrat per individual
Porites_astreoidesCount of Porites astreoides individuals within the quadrat per individual
Porites_divaricataCount of Porites divaricata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Porites_furcataCount of Porites furcata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Porites_poritesCount of Porites porites individuals within the quadrat per individual
Porites_colonensisCount of Porites colonensis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Scolymia_cubensisCount of Scolymia cubensis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Scolymia_laceraCount of Scolymia lacera individuals within the quadrat per individual
Siderastrea_radiansCount of Siderastrea radians individuals within the quadrat per individual
Solenastrea_hyadesCount of Solenastrea hyades individuals within the quadrat per individual
Siderastrea_sidereaCount of Siderastrea siderea individuals within the quadrat per individual
Stephanocoenia_interseptaCount of Stephanocoenia intersepta individuals within the quadrat per individual
Millepora_alcicornisCount of Millepora alcicornis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Stenopus_hispidusCount of Stenopus hispidus individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ancylomenes_pedersoniCount of Ancylomenes pedersoni individuals within the quadrat per individual
Stenorhynchus_seticornisCount of Stenorhynchus seticornis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Periclimenes_yucatanicusCount of Periclimenes yucatanicus individuals within the quadrat per individual
OphiuroideaCount of Ophiuroidea individuals within the quadrat per individual
Diadema_antillarumCount of Diadema antillarum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Echinometra_viridisCount of Echinometra viridis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Arbacia_punctulataCount of Arbacia punctulata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Eucidaris_tribuloidesCount of Eucidaris tribuloides individuals within the quadrat per individual
Echinometra_lucunterCount of Echinometra lucunter individuals within the quadrat per individual
Exaiptasia_diaphanaCount of Exaiptasia diaphana individuals within the quadrat per individual
Bartholomea_annulataCount of Bartholomea annulata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Spirobranchus_giganteusCount of Spirobranchus giganteus individuals within the quadrat per individual
Pomatostegus_stellatusCount of Pomatostegus stellatus individuals within the quadrat per individual
Notaulax_occidentalisCount of Notaulax occidentalis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Anamobaea_orstediiCount of Anamobaea orstedii individuals within the quadrat per individual
Sabellidae_Unknown_1Count of Sabellidae - Unknown 1 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Sabellidae_Unknown_2Count of Sabellidae - Unknown 2 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Branchiomma_nigromaculatumCount of Branchiomma nigromaculatum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Serpulidae_Unknown_1Count of Serpulidae - Unknown 1 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Sabellastarte_magnificaCount of Sabellastarte magnifica individuals within the quadrat per individual
Filogranella_spCount of Filogranella sp. individuals within the quadrat per individual
Serpulidae_Unknown_2Count of Serpulidae - Unknown 2 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Bispira_melanostigmaCount of Bispira melanostigma individuals within the quadrat per individual
Hermodice_carunculataCount of Hermodice carunculata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Cerithium_litteratumCount of Cerithium litteratum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_GastropodCount of Unknown Gastropod individuals within the quadrat per individual
Cyphoma_gibbosumCount of Cyphoma gibbosum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Clavelina_pictaCount of Clavelina picta individuals within the quadrat per individual
Rhopalaea_abdominalisCount of Rhopalaea abdominalis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Polycarpa_spongiabilisCount of Polycarpa spongiabilis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Palythoa_caribaeorumCount of Palythoa caribaeorum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Amphimedon_compressaCount of Amphimedon compressa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_13Count of Unknown 13 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_15Count of Unknown 15 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_14Count of Unknown 14 individuals within the quadrat per individual
DidemnidaeCount of Didemnidae individuals within the quadrat per individual
Spirastrella_coccineaCount of Spirastrella coccinea individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_16Count of Unknown 16 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_17Count of Unknown 17 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Smenospongia_aureaCount of Smenospongia aurea individuals within the quadrat per individual
Aplysinidae_tubes_Verongula_spp_Aiolochroia_sppCount of Aplysinidae tubes Verongula spp & Aiolochroia spp individuals within the quadrat per individual
Aplysina_fulvaCount of Aplysina fulva individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_5Count of Unknown 5 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Monanchora_arbusculaCount of Monanchora arbuscula individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_27Count of Unknown 27 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Cliona_delitrixCount of Cliona delitrix individuals within the quadrat per individual
Niphates_digitalisCount of Niphates digitalis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_12Count of Unknown 12 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_11Count of Unknown 11 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ectyoplasia_feroxCount of Ectyoplasia ferox individuals within the quadrat per individual
Diplosoma_glandulosumCount of Diplosoma glandulosum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_1Count of Unknown 1 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ircinia_strobilinaCount of Ircinia strobilina individuals within the quadrat per individual
Eudistoma_obscuratumCount of Eudistoma obscuratum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_2Count of Unknown 2 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_26Count of Unknown 26 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ircinia_felixCount of Ircinia felix individuals within the quadrat per individual
Aplysina_cauliformisCount of Aplysina cauliformis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Erythropodium_caribaeorumCount of Erythropodium caribaeorum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ircinia_campanaCount of Ircinia campana individuals within the quadrat per individual
Scopalina_ruetzleriCount of Scopalina ruetzleri individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_18Count of Unknown 18 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Callyspongia_fallaxCount of Callyspongia fallax individuals within the quadrat per individual
Siphonodictyon_coralliphagumCount of Siphonodictyon coralliphagum individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_25Count of Unknown 25 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Cinachyrella_kuekenthaliCount of Cinachyrella kuekenthali individuals within the quadrat per individual
Mycale_laevisCount of Mycale laevis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_19Count of Unknown 19 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_23Count of Unknown 23 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_8Count of Unknown 8 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_24Count of Unknown 24 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_22Count of Unknown 22 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Ascidia_sydneiensisCount of Ascidia sydneiensis individuals within the quadrat per individual
Desmapsamma_anchorataCount of Desmapsamma anchorata individuals within the quadrat per individual
Callyspongia_pliciferaCount of Callyspongia plicifera individuals within the quadrat per individual
Clathria_Microciona_bulbotoxaCount of Clathria (Microciona) bulbotoxa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_6Count of Unknown 6 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_4Count of Unknown 4 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_10Count of Unknown 10 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_7Count of Unknown 7 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Spirastrella_hartmaniCount of Spirastrella hartmani individuals within the quadrat per individual
Clathria_Micronciona_spinosaCount of Clathria (Micronciona) spinosa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_21Count of Unknown 21 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Aiolochroia_crassaCount of Aiolochroia crassa individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_20Count of Unknown 20 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_3Count of Unknown 3 individuals within the quadrat per individual
Unknown_9Count of Unknown 9 individuals within the quadrat per individual


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Instruments

Dataset-specific Instrument Name
Sony Cybershot DSC-WX300/B
Generic Instrument Name
Camera
Generic Instrument Description
All types of photographic equipment including stills, video, film and digital systems.

Dataset-specific Instrument Name
GoPro Hero 3+ camera
Generic Instrument Name
Underwater Camera
Generic Instrument Description
All types of photographic equipment that may be deployed underwater including stills, video, film and digital systems.


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Project Information

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

Coverage: St. John, US Virgin Islands


NSF Award 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.


RUI: Pattern and process in four decades of change on Caribbean reefs (St John Coral Reefs)


Coverage: United States Virgin Islands, St. John: 18.318, -64.7253


NSF Award Abstract:
The coral reef crisis refers to the high rates of death affecting tropical reef-building corals throughout the world, and the strong likelihood that coral reefs will become functionally extinct within the current century. Knowledge of these trends comes from the monitoring of coral reefs to evaluate their health over time, with the most informative projects providing high-resolution information extending over decades. Such projects describe both how reefs are changing, and answer questions addressing the causes of the changes and the form in which reefs will persist in the future. This project focuses on coral reefs in United States waters, specifically around St. John in the US Virgin Islands. These reefs are protected within the Virgin Islands National Park, and have been studied more consistently and in greater detail than most reefs anywhere in the world. Building from 33 years of research, this project extends monitoring of these habitats by another five years, and uses the emerging base of knowledge, and the biological laboratory created by the reefs of St. John, to address the causes and consequences of the bottleneck preventing baby corals from repopulating the reefs. The work is accomplished with annual expeditions, staffed by faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and teachers, coupled with analyses of samples at California State University, Northridge, and Florida State University, Tallahassee. The students and teachers assist with the research goals at the center of this project, but also engage in independent study and integrate with the rich and diverse societal context and natural history of the Caribbean. The scope of the science agenda extends to schools in California, where students are introduced to the roles played by marine animals in ecosystem health, concepts of long-term change in the biological world, and the role of science engagement in promoting positive environmental outcomes. In addition to generating a wide spectrum of project deliverables focusing on scientific discovery, the project promotes STEM careers and train globally aware scientists and educators capable of supporting the science agenda of the United States in the 21st Century.

This project leverages one of the longest time-series analyses of Caribbean coral reefs to extend the time-series from 33 to 38 years, and it tests hypotheses addressing the causes and consequences of changing coral reef community structure. The project focuses on reefs within the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP) and along the shore of St. John, US Virgin Islands, and is integrated with stakeholders working in conservation (VINP) and local academia (University of the Virgin Islands). Beginning in 1987, the project has addressed detail-oriented analyses within a small spatial area that complements the large-scale analyses conducted by the VINP. The results of these efforts create an unrivaled context within which ecologically relevant hypotheses can be tested to elucidate mechanisms driving ecological change. Building from image- and survey- based analyses, 33 years of data reveal the extent to which these reefs have transitioned to a low-abundance coral state, and the importance of the bottleneck preventing coral recruits from contributing to adult size classes. The intellectual merits of this project leverage these discoveries to address eight hypotheses: (H1) long-term changes are defining a cryptic regime change, with the low coral abundance reinforced by, (H2) enhanced community resilience, (H3) low post-settlement success, (H4) negative effects of peyssonnelid algal crusts (PAC) on juvenile corals, (H5) inability of juvenile corals to match their phenotypes to future conditions, (H6) impaired population growth caused by reduced genetic diversity, (H7) the premium placed on PAC-free halos around Diadema sea urchins for coral recruitment, and (H8) biotic homogenization occurring on a landscape-scale.

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 Ocean Sciences (NSF OCE)
NSF Division of Ocean Sciences (NSF OCE)

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