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St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST)

Research: Reefscape Characterization

Reefs are complex ecosystems where environmental and biological factors are constantly affecting each other, creating a heterogeneous and ever-changing landscape on both spatial and temporal scales. We are combining expertise in three specific areas (geochemistry, geology, and metabolic processes) to better characterize the processes that affect carbonate precipitation and dissolution. Understanding the processes that underlie whether the reef is accreting (growing) or dissolving are fundamental to questions of reef health and resiliency. For maximum comparative value, we will first examine a senescent reef (Crocker) in the Florida Keys, followed by a healthy reef (Pulaski Shoals) in the Dry Tortugas. Calcification stations from the Monitoring Coral Reef Growth task have been placed at these sites and will benefit from the environmental data collected. Our first coordinated field work will take place in July, 2014.

Specific efforts include:

  • Long-term autonomous seawater chemical and physical parameters (hourly sampling)
  • Diurnal and seasonal discrete seawater chemistry across the reefscape
  • Vertical chemistry profiles
sea-water sampler

  • ATRIS-derived habitat map
  • Sediment distributions (grain size and mineralogy)
  • Sediment accumulation rates
  • Vertical temperature profiles
habitat map

Metabolic Processes
  • Water quality parameters (total bacterial and viral loads, indicator species)
  • Replicate seasonal reef metagenomes
  • Metabolic processes examined via functional genes across multiple reef zones
illustration of metabolic processes

illustration showing synchronized field work

illustration showing conditions affecting reef processes


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