Depth and coral cover drive the distribution of a coral macroborer across two reef systems
Maher, Rebecca L.
Johnston, Michelle A.
Brandt, Marilyn E.
Smith, Tyler B.
Correa, Adrienne M.S.
Bioerosion, the removal of calcium carbonate from coral frameworks by living organisms, influences a variety of reef features, from their topographic complexity to the net balance of carbonate budgets. Little is known, however, about how macroborers, which bore into reef substrates leaving traces greater than 0.1 mm diameter, are distributed across coral reefs, particularly reef systems with high (>50%) stony coral cover or at mesophotic depths (≥30 m). Here, we present an accurate and efficient method for quantifying macroborer densities from stony coral hosts via image analysis, using the bioeroding barnacle, Lithotrya dorsalis, and its host coral, Orbicella franksi, as a case study. We found that in 2014, L. dorsalis densities varied consistently with depth and host percent cover in two Atlantic reef systems: the Flower Garden Banks (FGB, northwest Gulf of Mexico) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Although average barnacle density was nearly 4.5 times greater overall in the FGB than in the USVI, barnacle density decreased with depth in both reef regions. Barnacle density also scaled negatively with increasing coral cover in the study areas, suggesting that barnacle populations are not strictly space-limited in their distribution and settlement opportunities. Our findings suggest that depth and host coral cover, and potentially, local factors may strongly influence the abundance of macroborers, and thus the rate of CaCO3 loss, in a given reef system. Our image analysis method for quantifying macroborers can be standardized across historical and modern reef records to better understand how borers impact host growth and reef health.
Citable link to this pagehttps://hdl.handle.net/1911/102709
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