Status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan: prevailing environmental conditions, their impacts on community structure and conservation approaches

Highlights

• Describes status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan.

• Prevailing physico-chemical conditions in coastal waters of Sindh, Pakistan.

• Impacts of physico-chemical conditions on corals distribution patterns.

• Existing threats and future conservation plans.

Abstract

Reef system across the globe is facing serious anthropogenic threats and impacts. The present study describes the status of corals, prevailing stresses and their impacts on community structure along the Sindh coast of Pakistan. In the current study, 21 species of hard corals were recorded. All together, 50 live coral species recorded from the coastal waters of Pakistan. High diversity occurred at Churna Island (15 species). A little bit patch reef formation was observed at Churna Island (dive sites 2 and 3) while scattered colonies were recorded in coastal habitats. Porites species were found dominating both in coastal and offshore environments. Overall, temperature and nutrient concentrations were found to be fluctuating than what corals prefer, however, pH concentrations were found in normal ranges. Calcium, carbon and oxygen were recorded as major elements incorporated in coral skeletons. Possible causes of limited coral fauna and a confined distribution pattern appeared to be linked with local factors (strong wave action, high nutrient concentrations, temperature fluctuations, past geological events, reversal monsoon and overfishing) rather than global changes. Other impacts, for example diving tourism, coral mining or collection for ornaments or sale are minor. Prevailing stresses, increase in the construction of local infrastructure in coastal areas and unmanaged tourism indicates that in future, the level of pollution will further increase in coastal areas. As a result, a further shift in community structure will occur and it appears that only Porites will survive in the coastal waters of Pakistan. Future protection efforts should focus on regular monitoring and establishing of an effective Marine Protected Area at least around the shallow habitats of the Churna Island.

Ali A., Siddiqui P. J. A., Rasheed M., Ahmad N., Shafique S. & Khokhar F. N., in press. Status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan: prevailing environmental conditions, their impacts on community structure and conservation approaches. Regional Studies in Marine Science. Article (subscription required).

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