Elliott Jennifer A.

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Jennifer A.

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  • Article
    Decline in coral cover and flattening of the reefs around Mauritius (1998–2010)
    (PeerJ, 2018-11-29) Elliott, Jennifer A. ; Patterson, Mark ; Staub, Caroline ; Koonjul, Meera ; Elliott, Stephen M.
    Coral reefs are degrading through the impacts of multiple anthropogenic stressors. How are coral reef communities going to change and how to protect them for future generations are important conservation questions. Using coral reef data from Mauritius, we examined changes in cover in 23 benthic groups for a 13-yr period and at 15 sites. Moreover, we determined which land-based stressor out of four (human population, agriculture, tourism, rainfall) correlated the most with the observed changes in coral reef cover. Among the stony corals, Acropora corals appeared to be the most impacted, decreasing in cover at many sites. However, the non-Acropora encrusting group increased in cover at several sites. The increase in abundance of dead corals and rubble at some sites also supported the observations of stony coral decline during the study period. Additionally, the decline in stony corals appeared to be more pronounced in second half of the study period for all sites suggesting that a global factor rather than a local factor was responsible for this decline. There was little change in cover for the other benthic groups, some of which were quite rare. Human population was significantly correlated with changes in coral reef cover for 11 sites, followed by tourism and agriculture. Rainfall, a proxy for runoff, did not appear to affect coral reef cover. Overall, our results showed that there has been a decline of stony coral cover especially the ones with complex morphologies, which in turn suggest that coral reefs around Mauritius have experienced a decline in habitat complexity during the study period. Our study also suggests that humans are an important factor contributing to the demise of coral reefs around the island.