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Quantifying sediment dynamics on an inshore coral reef: Putting algal turfs in perspective

Latrille, François X., Tebbett, Sterling B., Bellwood, David R.
Marine pollution bulletin 2019 v.141 pp. 404-415
coral reefs, lawns and turf, pollution load, sediment yield, sediments, suspended sediment, turf algae, water pollution
Increased sediment loads within algal turfs, can be highly detrimental to coral reef systems. However, significant knowledge gaps remain in relation to sediment dynamics, especially linking suspended sediments, sedimentation and turf-bound sediments. To examine these links, a series of different methods for quantifying suspended sediments, sedimentation and the accumulation of turf sediments were compared, simultaneously, on an inner-shelf reef. We revealed that the amount and composition of sediment quantified using different methods varied markedly, with commonly employed measures of sedimentation failing to accurately reflect patterns of sediment accumulation in turfs. Our results highlighted the propensity for turfs to trap and retain sediments, with turfs accumulating approximately 2.6 times more sediment than traps, and 6 times more sediment than SedPods, over a seven-day period. This study highlights the major, but often overlooked, role that algal turfs can play in sediment dynamics on coral reefs.