Coral persistence despite marginal conditions in the Port of Miami

Coral cover has declined worldwide due to anthropogenic stressors that manifest on both global and local scales. Coral communities that exist in extreme conditions can provide information on how these stressors influence ecosystem structure, with implications for their persistence under future conditions. The Port of Miami is located within an urbanized environment, with active coastal development, as well as commercial shipping and recreational boating activity. Monitoring of sites throughout the Port since 2018 has revealed periodic extremes in temperature, seawater pH, and salinity, far in excess of what have been measured in most coral reef environments. Despite conditions that would kill many reef species, we have documented diverse coral communities growing on artificial substrates at these sites—reflecting remarkable tolerance to environmental stressors. Furthermore, many of the more prevalent species within these communities are now conspicuously absent or in low abundance on nearby reefs, owing to their susceptibility and exposure to stony coral tissue loss disease. Natural reef frameworks, however, are largely absent at the urban sites and while diverse fish communities are documented, it is unlikely that these communities provide the same goods and services as natural reef habitats. Regardless, the existence of these communities indicates unlikely persistence and highlights the potential for coexistence of threatened species in anthropogenic environments, provided that suitable stewardship strategies are in place.

Enochs I. C., Studivan M. S., Kolodziej G., Foord C., Basden I., Boyd A., Formel N., Kirkland A., Rubin E., Jankulak M., Smith I., Kelble C. R. & Manzello D. P., 2023. Coral persistence despite marginal conditions in the Port of Miami. Scientific Reports 13: 6759. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-33467-7. Article.

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