TEMPORAL COMPARISON IN THE CORAL COMMUNITY STRUCTURE IN ITS EARLY SUCESIONAL STATE, SAN ANDRES ISLAND, COLOMBIA
The coral reefs worldwide have suffered a decline during the past three decades. These changes have been evaluated in fringing reefs; nevertheless, it is not known if the factors causing those changes affect the coral community dynamics during the !rst states of the succession, before the development of a reef. To resolve this question, during 2004, 2005, and 2006 we monitored an isolated coral community in San Andres. We compared trough time the abundance, coverage and partial mortality suffered by the coral community and its dominant coral populations. The coral community did not present statistical variation in richness, abundance, coverage, neither in the area of partial mortality. However, this community did change in composition with the entry of two coral species (Acropora cervicornis and Scolymia cubensis) and the exit of other two coral species (Diploria clivosa and Siderastrea siderea) suggesting local processes of extinction (caused possibly by sedimentation and resuspension) and colonization (dispersion). Although the coral community as a whole showed stability, the partial mortality of three of its dominant species (Montastraea annularis, Porites astreoides and Colpophyllia natans) increased and the coverage of Agaricia agaricites diminished over time (been the population more sensitive in this system). These results suggest similar but faster dynamic when compared to the theory reported to advanced stages of reef development (fringing reefs), where the more sensitive variables appeared at population rather than community level, partial mortality being the most important factor explaining the rate of replacement of species (composition), the annual lost of coral coverage, and changes in colonial size distribution of the dominant populations.
Coral community; Dynamics; Partial mortality; Structural change; Succession
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