River discharge reduces reef coral diversity in Palau

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Golbuu, Y, Van Woesik, R, Richmond, RH, Harrison, PL & Fabricius, KE 2011, 'River discharge reduces reef coral diversity in Palau', Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 824-831.

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Coral community structure is often governed by a suite of processes that are becoming increasingly influenced by land-use changes and related terrestrial discharges. We studied sites along a watershed gradient to examine both the physical environment and the associated biological communities. Transplanted corals showed no differences in growth rates and mortality along the watershed gradient. However, coral cover, coral richness, and coral colony density increased with increasing distance from the mouth of the bay. There was a negative relationship between coral cover and mean suspended solids concentration. Negative relationships were also found between terrigenous sedimentation rates and the richness of adult and juvenile corals. These results have major implications not only for Pacific islands but for all countries with reef systems downstream of rivers. Land development very often leads to increases in river runoff and suspended solids concentrations that reduce coral cover and coral diversity on adjacent reefs.

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