Survival under chronic stress from sediment load: spatial patterns of hard coral communities in the southern islands of Singapore.Mar Pollut Bull. 2006 Jan; 52(1):7-21.MP
Six reef sites were chosen along the west coasts of Singapore's southern islands, to: (1) quantitatively assess and compare coral community composition and structure, and recruitment rates, (2) assess the relationship between the aforementioned patterns and the environmental conditions, and (3) provide insights on potential processes that incorporate history at these study sites. Chronic exposure to high sediment load was the most obvious form of anthropogenic stress. Recruitment rates on ceramic tiles were low (1.4+/-1.0-20+/-14.7 recruits m(-2)year(-1)) but decreased towards the main island of Singapore as did hard coral cover and coral density. Coral fauna consisted of genera generally found in deeper waters (e.g., fungiids, foliose Oxypora, Leptoseris, and Echinopora) or those well adapted to turbid waters (e.g., Porites, Pectinia, Leptastrea, Montipora). Light extinction coefficient (K) and % live coral cover (%LCC) showed a strong and inverse curvilinear relationship (%LCC=13.60 *K(-3.40)). Similarly, the rate of sediment deposition (DFSPM) (Recruitment rate, RR=1.51-0.17 *DFSPM) and water clarity (RR=3.56-2.92 *K) exhibited strong and inverse relationships with recruitment rates. Although measured levels of the down-ward flux of suspended particulate matter and suspended solids were well within "normal" levels recorded in the literature, it was the proportion of benthic space, generic coral composition, and site history that offered compelling evidence of chronic exposure to increased sediment load. Clearly a reduction in both water clarity and live-coral cover has taken place since monitoring efforts began in the early 1970s, in fact coral cover has more than halved at all sites examined since the 1980s and benthic space was predominantly occupied by dead corals covered with sediment and filamentous algae.