scientific article | Regional Studies in Marine Science
Albelda RL , Cabaitan PC, Sinniger FP, Dumalagan EEJr., Quimpo TJR, Olavides RD, Munar JC , Villanoy CL, Siringan FP
The juvenile stage is a critical part of a scleractinian’s life history as it is when they are highly vulnerable to various post-settlement mortality processes, which influence the structure of adult scleractinian assemblages. Although numerous studies have been done to understand dynamics of juvenile assemblages at shallow water reefs (SWRs), similar studies on deeper and less explored reefs, such as mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) remain limited. Using diver-based photo-quadrat method, we aimed to examine how juvenile scleractinian assemblages vary from SWRs (shallow: 3 to 10 m and middle: 10 to 20 m) to upper MCEs (deep: 30 to 40 m) in the fringing and atoll reefs in the Apo Reef Natural Park, Philippines. We also aimed to understand the potential association of juvenile scleractinian densities with adult scleractinian densities and benthic cover. A total of 12 families were recorded for both juveniles and adults with Poritidae being the most abundant, followed by Pocilloporidae and Acroporidae (and Merulinidae for juveniles only). Juvenile densities (ranging from 14 to 36 individuals/m2 ) varied among depth zone and reef type interactions and had a bimodal distribution, with the middle zone having the lowest density compared to the shallow and deep zones. Juvenile densities were correlated to benthic cover, particularly to high algal cover in the middle zone and availability of bare hard substrate in the shallow zone. Adult densities were also correlated with juvenile densities, but not commonly in the middle zone, emphasizing that it is only one of the many variables that contribute to juvenile assemblages. This study is the first to document juvenile scleractinian assemblages, how they vary from SWRs to MCEs in the Philippines and the Coral Triangle, and demonstrates the importance of benthos and adult brood stock in shaping juvenile scleractinian assemblages across depth zones.