Role of Sediments and Nutrients in the Condition of a Coral Reef Under Tourist Pressure: Akumal México.
Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:55 PM
Akumal, Mexico, was the first tourist resort in the Mexican Caribbean mainland, its highly developed coastal zone lies directly above the phreatic, and it is directly connected to the sub-littoral waters. Akumal is also known as a well-developed fringing coral reef, now in a critical condition. The main objective of this study was to explore the relationship between two of the main indicators of human pressure (nutrients and sedimentation, linked to coastal development and water run-offs) and the condition of the reef benthos, during a year. The sampling design used four transects perpendicular to shore, associated to different tourist and water run-off exposure, for a total of 12 stations distributed in three different reef zones (transition zone, shallow and deep spurs and grooves). Monthly samples were collected: water samples close to the reef lagoon drain channels and at bottom depth at each station, and sediment traps were recovered and replaced also at each station. Reef Benthos videotransects were recorded bi-monthly at each station to assess its condition. Macroalgae and filamentous algae dominate benthic cover (up to 50%), hard-coral cover ranges from 5-9%. Five coral-diseases were recorded, affecting 10.16% of the coral colonies: Caribbean Ciliate Infection, White Band, Purple Spots, White Spots and Yellow Band. The sedimentation rate -sr- ranged from 0.13 to 83.7 mg/cm2/day during the year; 86% of the samples had a sr ≤ 10 mg/cm2/day (reefs not stressed); 13% of the samples had a sr ranging from 10 to 50 mg/cm2/day (stressed reefs); and 1% of the samples were over the critical threshold (>50 mg/cm2/day). Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen concentrations during the year were above those recorded previously in Caribbean reefs. The most abundant fraction was ammonium, surpassing both Mexican norms: For protection of aquatic life in coastal zones (0.01 mg/L), and the critical threshold for aquatic life (0.4 mg/L). These concentration limits are considered as drivers of eutrophication, one of the main established causes of reef degradation globally. High concentrations of ammonium and other nutrients have been linked to increases in algae cover and coral diseases incidence, and to decreases in rates of coral calcification, fertility, production and viability of coral larvae, and the associated diversity loss.