COS 92-9 - Variability in coral recruitment along the Southeast Florida Reef Tract

Friday, August 12, 2016: 10:30 AM
316, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Leah M. Harper1, Nicole D. Fogarty1, Robert Ruzicka2 and Daniel F. Gleason3, (1)Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, FL, (2)Corals Program, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, (3)Georgia Southern University

For coral populations to survive and adapt to changing climate conditions, they must reproduce and recruit to coral reefs.  The corals of the southeast Florida reef tract have been experiencing recruitment failure. Recruitment in this region is being outpaced by mortality, resulting in population declines in many coral species.  However, the current species distribution of recruits is unknown and interannual and spatial variation in recruitment is undescribed.  We are quantifying recruitment of juvenile scleractinian and octocorals at 12 long-term monitoring sites in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Using thirty-two 0.25m2 quadrats at each site, we surveyed the benthos for scleractinian corals under 40mm in diameter and octocorals under 40mm in height.  Next to each quadrat, a 225cm2grooved terracotta settlement tile was deployed and retrieved after one year.


Our results suggest that octocorals are recruiting to southeast Florida’s reef tract more frequently than scleractinian corals. Brooding scleractinian species dominated tiles, with variation in species distribution between depths and sites.  In sum, completion of this study will inform reef management and restoration efforts within southeastern Florida by identifying “recruitment hotspots”, as well as identifying those sites and species having limited ability to recover through natural recruitment processes.