Key words Coral
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Coastal reef degradation and widespread bleaching of corals, i.e. loss of pigments and/or symbiotic zooxanthellae, is increasing globally. Remote sensing from boats, aircraft or satellites has great potential for assessing the extent of reef change, but will require ground-verified spectral algorithims characteristic of healthy and degraded reef populations. We collected seven species of Caribbean reef corals and also representative macroalgae from reefs near Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas and quantified their pigments using high performance liquid chromatography. We also measured the fluorescence and reflectance spectra of corals and macroalgae using an in situ benthic spectrofluorometer. In visibly pigmented (unbleached) coral from 4 to 5 m depth, the mean (±SD) surface density of pigments (3.0±1.3 μg chlorophyll-a cm-2 and 2.1±0.7 μg peridinin cm-2) was similar between colonies of the same species, but differed among species. The mean quantity of pigment per zooxanthella (1.8±0.9 pg chl-a cell-1 and 1.4±0.7 pg peridinin cell-1) also differed among species and sometimes between colonies of the same species. Chl-a and peridinin densities per surface area of coral were positively correlated. When excited with blue light (480 nm), macroalgae and corals had typical chlorophyll fluorescence with a peak at 680 nm and a smaller shoulder peak at 730 to 740 nm. Most corals, unlike macroalgae, also had distinct fluorescence peaks between 500 and 530 nm. In visibly bleached corals 680 nm fluorescence was greatly reduced in amplitude. Pigmented coral, under natural lighting conditions, had a reflected light peak at about 570 nm. Reflectance increased over all wavelengths in bleached corals, with the greatest increase at the wavelengths where chlorophyll and accessory pigments absorb light, i.e. 670 and 450 to 550 nm. Both fluorescence and reflectance spectra appear promising to remotely differentiate between pigmented and bleached coral and between coral and macroalgae.
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