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Scientific Review, Compilation, and Assessment of Coral Spawning Time in the Atlantic/Caribbean
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program & U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
Principal Investigator: Alison Moulding, Ph.D. M.S. Graduate Student: Maureen Trnka
Scleractinian corals are primary framework builders of coral reefs. These corals provide habitats for numerous organisms, contribute to the structure and function of coral reefs, and help support the economic, social and cultural framework of coastal communities throughout the tropics and subtropics.
Many coral reefs throughout the western Atlantic have experienced large declines in the abundance and cover of reef building corals over the last three decades in response to various human and natural stressors.
The presence of suspended sediment and pollutants such as pesticides, herbicides, nutrients, heavy metals and petroleum products may prevent successful fertilization of coral gametes and reduce survival of planula larvae, thus affecting settlement and recruitment. Recovery of corals may be enhanced in areas where environmental conditions support sexual reproduction and recruitment. However, recovery may be delayed or prevented in areas affected by human activities such as coastal development projects, dredging, storm water runoff, land clearing, agriculture and shipping, especially for species that exhibit annual broadcast spawning and are characterized by low recruitment rates. By implementing measures to minimize human activities that introduce sediment and pollutants into coral reef environments during the annual spawning events, it may be possible to enhance fertilization success and recruitment.
Project and Findings
A review of existing scientific data regarding Atlantic and Caribbean coral reproduction and recruitment of scleractinian corals was collected. This data was compiled in a user friendly and searchable table that includes information on each coral species in regards to mode of reproduction, cited literature sources of applicable research, locations of where research was performed, spawning times, method of observation, environmental factors affecting spawning and duration of larvae in the water column.
An estimate range of sensitivities or a "sensitivity window" for the reproduction and recruitment of each coral species can be determined. This is done by using the information provided in the table as well as the lunar calendar for upcoming years to make extended predictions.
121 articles were reviewed, annotated, and entered into EndNote, a searchable bibliographic program. In EndNote, each article is listed with the following information: Author, Year, Title, Journal, Volume, Pages, Location, Type of work, and Keywords. Applicable information from each article was also entered into table format in Excel. Eleven families and 64 taxa of corals are included in the table. Thirty-three of the 64 taxa are without any applicable coral spawning research.
Gonochoric (male/female), Hermaphroditic, or Mixed
This project was performed to provide information to managers throughout the Caribbean to help reduce human impacts during the critical coral spawning and larval development window. Modification of the type or timing of activities that introduce nutrients, pollutants, and suspended particles may lead to enhanced fertilization and coral recruitment success. For many of the main reef-building species, information on coral spawning times is known and can be predicted. However, in most locations this information has not been widely available or previously considered during planning and implementation of human activities. Compilation of this information by species and by region will give managers the information they need to help protect corals during a sensitive phase of their life history.