Identifying mangrove-coral habitats in the Florida Keys

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Coral reefs are degrading due to many synergistic stressors. Recently there have been a number of global reports of corals occupying mangrove habitats that provide a supportive environment or refugium for corals, sheltering them by reducing stressors such as oxidative light stress and low pH. This study used satellite imagery and manual ground-truthing surveys to search for mangrove-coral habitats in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and then collected basic environmental parameters (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, pHNBS, turbidity) at identified sites using a multi-parameter water quality sonde. Two kinds of mangrove-coral habitats were found in both the Upper and Lower Florida Keys: (1) prop-root corals, where coral colonies were growing directly on (and around) mangrove prop roots, and (2) channel corals, where coral colonies were growing in mangrove channels under the shade of the mangrove canopy, at deeper depths and not in as close proximity to the mangroves. Coral species found growing on and directly adjacent to prop roots included Porites porites (multiple morphs, including P. divaricata and P. furcata), Siderastrea radians, and Favia fragum. Channel coral habitats predominantly hosted S. radians and a few S. siderea, although single colonies of Solenastrea bournoni and Stephanocoenia intersepta were observed. Although clear, low-turbidity water was a consistent feature of these mangrove-coral habitats, the specific combination of environmental factors that determine which mangrove habitats are favorable for coral recruitment remains to be defined. Circumstantial evidence suggests additional coral communities existed on mangrove shorelines of oceanside and backcountry islands until destroyed, likely by Hurricane Irma. These mangrove-coral habitats may be climate refugia for corals and could be included in ecosystem management plans and considered for their applications in coral restoration.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Identifying mangrove-coral habitats in the Florida Keys
Series title PeerJ
DOI 10.7717/peerj.9776
Volume 8
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher PeerJ
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description e9776, 23 p.
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
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