Organic carbon sources and their transfer in a gulf of Mexico coral reef ecosystem

Carreón-Palau, Laura (2015) Organic carbon sources and their transfer in a gulf of Mexico coral reef ecosystem. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Coral reefs face unprecedented threats throughout most of their range. Poorly planned coastal development has contributed increased nutrients and sewage contamination to coastal waters, smothering some corals and contributing to overgrowth by macroalgae. My approach to assessing the degree to which coral reef ecosystems have been influenced by terrestrial and anthropogenic organic carbon inputs is through the use of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stable isotopes and lipid biomarkers in a marine protected area, the Coral Reef System of Veracruz: Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano (PNSAV) in the southwest Gulf of Mexico. Firstly, I used a C and N stable isotope mixing model and a calculated fatty acid (FA) retention factor to reveal the primary producer sources that fuel the coral reef food web. Secondly, I used lipid classes, FA and sterol biomarkers to determine production of terrestrial and marine biogenic material of nutritional quality to pelagic and benthic organisms. Finally, I used coprostanol to determine pollutant loading from sewage in the suspended particulate matter. Results indicate that phytoplankton is the major source of essential metabolite FA for marine fish and that dietary energy from terrestrial sources such as mangroves are transferred to juvenile fish, while seagrass non-essential FA are transferred to the entire food web mainly in the rainy season. Sea urchins may be the main consumers of brown macroalgae, especially in the dry season, while surgeon fish prefer red algae in both dry and rainy seasons. C and N isotopic values and the ratio C:N suggest that fertilizer is the principal source of nitrogen to macroalgae. Thus nitrogen supply also favored phytoplankton and seagrass growth leading to a better nutritional condition and high retention of organic carbon in the food web members during the rainy season when river influence increases. However, the great star coral Montastrea cavernosa nutritional condition decreased significantly in the rainy season. The nearest river to the PNSAV was polluted in the dry season; however, a dilution effect was detected in the rainy season, when some coral reefs were contaminated. In 2013, a new treatment plant started working in the area. I would suggest monitoring δ¹⁵N and the C: N ratio in macroalgae as indicators of the nitrogen input and coprostanol as an indicator of human feces pollution in order to verify the efficiency of the new treatment plant as part of the management program of the PNSAV.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 12062
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano National Park, Coral reefs, Organic carbon, Trophic transfer, Stable isotopes, SIAR, Lipid classes, Fatty acids, Sterols, Lipid biomarkers
Department(s): Science, Faculty of > Biology
Date: June 2015
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Gulf of Mexico
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Coral reef ecology--Mexico, Gulf of; Seawater--Organic compound content--Mexico, Gulf of; Coral reef organisms--Effect of pollution on--Mexico, Gulf of

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