Sandin Stuart A.

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Stuart A.

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  • Article
    Increasing coral reef resilience through successive marine heatwaves
    (American Geophysical Union, 2021-08-30) Fox, Michael D. ; Cohen, Anne L. ; Rotjan, Randi ; Mangubhai, Sangeeta ; Sandin, Stuart A. ; Smith, Jennifer E. ; Thorrold, Simon R. ; Dissly, Laura ; Mollica, Nathaniel R. ; Obura, David
    Ocean warming is causing declines of coral reefs globally, raising critical questions about the potential for corals to adapt. In the central equatorial Pacific, reefs persisting through recurrent El Niño heatwaves hold important clues. Using an 18-year record of coral cover spanning three major bleaching events, we show that the impact of thermal stress on coral mortality within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) has lessened over time. Disproportionate survival of extreme thermal stress during the 2009–2010 and 2015–2016 heatwaves, relative to that in 2002–2003, suggests that selective mortality through successive heatwaves may help shape coral community responses to future warming. Identifying and facilitating the conditions under which coral survival and recovery can keep pace with rates of warming are essential first steps toward successful stewardship of coral reefs under 21st century climate change.
  • Article
    Benthic assemblages are more predictable than fish assemblages at an island scale
    (Springer, 2022-05-30) Sandin, Stuart A. ; Alcantar, Esmeralda ; Clark, Randy ; de León, Ramón ; Dilrosun, Faisal ; Edwards, Clinton B. ; Estep, Andrew J. ; Eynaud, Yoan ; French, Beverly J. ; Fox, Michael D. ; Grenda, Dave ; Hamilton, Scott L. ; Kramp, Heather ; Marhaver, Kristen L. ; Miller, Scott D. ; Roach, Ty N. F. ; Seferina, Gisette ; Silveira, Cynthia B. ; Smith, Jennifer E. ; Zgliczynski, Brian J. ; Vermeij, Mark J. A.
    Decades of research have revealed relationships between the abundance of coral reef taxa and local conditions, especially at small scales. However, a rigorous test of covariation requires a robust dataset collected across wide environmental or experimental gradients. Here, we surveyed spatial variability in the densities of major coral reef functional groups at 122 sites along a 70 km expanse of the leeward, forereef habitat of Curaçao in the southern Caribbean. These data were used to test the degree to which spatial variability in community composition could be predicted based on assumed functional relationships and site-specific anthropogenic, physical, and ecological conditions. In general, models revealed less power to describe the spatial variability of fish biomass than cover of reef builders (R2 of best-fit models: 0.25 [fish] and 0.64 [reef builders]). The variability in total benthic cover of reef builders was best described by physical (wave exposure and reef relief) and ecological (turf algal height and coral recruit density) predictors. No metric of anthropogenic pressure was related to spatial variation in reef builder cover. In contrast, total fish biomass showed a consistent (albeit weak) association with anthropogenic predictors (fishing and diving pressure). As is typical of most environmental gradients, the spatial patterns of both fish biomass density and reef builder cover were spatially autocorrelated. Residuals from the best-fit model for fish biomass retained a signature of spatial autocorrelation while the best-fit model for reef builder cover removed spatial autocorrelation, thus reinforcing our finding that environmental predictors were better able to describe the spatial variability of reef builders than that of fish biomass. As we seek to understand spatial variability of coral reef communities at the scale of most management units (i.e., at kilometer- to island-scales), distinct and scale-dependent perspectives will be needed when considering different functional groups.
  • Article
    Ecophysiology of coral reef primary producers across an upwelling gradient in the tropical central Pacific
    (Public Library of Science, 2020-02-04) Johnson, Maggie D. ; Fox, Michael D. ; Kelly, Emily L. A. ; Zgliczynski, Brian J. ; Sandin, Stuart A. ; Smith, Jennifer E.
    Upwelling is an important source of inorganic nutrients in marine systems, yet little is known about how gradients in upwelling affect primary producers on coral reefs. The Southern Line Islands span a natural gradient of inorganic nutrient concentrations across the equatorial upwelling region in the central Pacific. We used this gradient to test the hypothesis that benthic autotroph ecophysiology is enhanced on nutrient-enriched reefs. We measured metabolism and photophysiology of common benthic taxa, including the algae Porolithon, Avrainvillea, and Halimeda, and the corals Pocillopora and Montipora. We found that temperature (27.2–28.7°C) was inversely related to dissolved inorganic nitrogen (0.46–4.63 μM) and surface chlorophyll a concentrations (0.108–0.147 mg m-3), which increased near the equator. Contrary to our prediction, ecophysiology did not consistently track these patterns in all taxa. Though metabolic rates were generally variable, Porolithon and Avrainvillea photosynthesis was highest at the most productive and equatorial island (northernmost). Porolithon photosynthetic rates also generally increased with proximity to the equator. Photophysiology (maximum quantum yield) increased near the equator and was highest at northern islands in all taxa. Photosynthetic pigments also were variable, but chlorophyll a and carotenoids in Avrainvillea and Montipora were highest at the northern islands. Phycobilin pigments of Porolithon responded most consistently across the upwelling gradient, with higher phycoerythrin concentrations closer to the equator. Our findings demonstrate that the effects of in situ nutrient enrichment on benthic autotrophs may be more complex than laboratory experiments indicate. While upwelling is an important feature in some reef ecosystems, ancillary factors may regulate the associated consequences of nutrient enrichment on benthic reef organisms.