Free Content Species presence and distribution of Scleractinia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa) from South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

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Abstract:

The species presence and relative abundance of scleractinian corals was recorded on the narrow shelf of the Caicos Platform, off South Caicos Island, in the southeastern Bahamian archipelago. Belt transects were used to survey 100 m2 at each of three topographic reef zones, namely "pavement" at 9 m, spur and groove at 18 m, and the forereef escarpment at 27 m depth. Thirty-three species were thus identified in situ. Including species of the environs, a total of 40 zooxanthellate and mostly hermatypic species were recorded. Three distinct coral assemblages were depicted. Low species richness, and a comparatively even distribution of individual abundances, characterized the coral assemblage at 9 m, influenced by the persistent wave impact of easterly Trade Winds. The coral assemblage at 18 m, spatially restricted to the spurs of the spur and groove topography, harbored the highest species richness and diversity, while exhibiting comparatively heterogeneous individual abundances. Outcrops, ledges, and sand chutes characterized the reef at 27 m, where the number of species decreased, yet the evenness of occurrence increased. Siderastrea siderea and Porites astreoides were among the most frequently occurring corals at all depths, indicating that they are eurybathic and inter-specifically competitive. Agaricia spp., Montastraea annularis, and M. faveolata, were abundant at depths of 18 and 27 m, where they constitute the main scleractinian framework builders. The general paucity of Acropora spp. and the lack of Acropora cervicornis accretions at mid depths is another attribute of South Caicos.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1999

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