Marine Science Faculty Publications

Assessing Coral Reef Health in the North Ari Atoll (Maldives) Using the FoRAM Index

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bioindicators, domestic pollution, foraminifera, indian ocean

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Tropical marine ecosystems are richly diverse, but are experiencing growing pressure from coastal development and tourism. Assessing the status of coral reef communities along gradients of human pressure is necessary to predict recovery capacity of reefs exposed to acute events such as mass bleaching or storm destruction. Islands in the central Maldives Archipelago, which experience three different management regimes (four for each category: local community, uninhabited, and resort islands), were sampled during the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-REGENERATE Cruise in 2015. Assessments were carried out using the FoRAM Index (FI), based on relative abundances of larger foraminiferal shells in reef sediments.

Overall, FI values (> 5) indicate that water quality currently should support active accretion by reef-building corals and larger benthic foraminifers. The highest median FI values (5.9) were recorded from sites associated with the uninhabited islands. Slightly, but significantly lower medians were recorded at sites near community and resort islands (FI = 5.3 and 5.1, respectively) that host permanent human settlement, indicating possible local deterioration of water quality by disposal of domestic wastes. Note that the FI was designed to assess suitability of local water quality and not to assess responses to regional to global changes associated with temperature stress or ocean acidification.

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Marine Micropaleontology, v. 133, p. 50-57