Impacts of light limitation on corals and crustose coralline algae

Pia Bessell-Browne, Andrew P. Negri, Rebecca Fisher, Peta L. Clode, Ross Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Turbidity associated with elevated suspended sediment concentrations can significantly reduce underwater light availability. Understanding the consequences for sensitive organisms such as corals and crustose coralline algae (CCA), requires an understanding of tolerance levels and the time course of effects. Adult colonies of Acropora millepora and Pocillopora acuta, juvenile P. acuta, and the CCA Porolithon onkodes were exposed to six light treatments of ~0, 0.02, 0.1, 0.4, 1.1 and 4.3 mol photons m-2 d-1, and their physiological responses were monitored over 30 d. Exposure to very low light (<0.1 mol photons m-2 d-1) caused tissue discoloration (bleaching) in the corals, and discolouration (and partial mortality) of the CCA, yielding 30 d EI10 thresholds (irradiance which results in a 10% change in colour) of 1.2-1.9 mol photons m-2 d-1. Recent monitoring studies during dredging campaigns on a shallow tropical reef, have shown that underwater light levels very close (~500 m away) from a working dredge routinely fall below this value over 30 d periods, but rarely during the pre-dredging baseline phase. Light reduction alone, therefore, constitutes a clear risk to coral reefs from dredging, although at such close proximity other cause-effect pathways, such as sediment deposition and smothering, are likely to also co-occur.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11553
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


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