Using three-dimensional surface area to compare the growth of two Pocilloporid coral species
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Many facets of coral research require coral colony surface area estimates. This study developed a relationship between the two-dimensional (2D) projected area and the three-dimensional (3D) whole colony surface area for two commonly studied Indo-Pacific coral species: Pocillopora damicornis and Stylophora pistillata. The surface index function was used to measure the growth of colonies in situ around Heron reef on the southern Great Barrier Reef. The results show that while growth between the two species was not significantly different when measured in two dimensions, the 3D area showed significantly different growth rates with S. pistillata growing at almost double the rate of P. damicornis. The study demonstrates that it is possible to make reliable estimates of the 3D surface area of entire colonies of these complex branching coral species, using the plan view of the coral and a pre-determined surface index function. In addition, this study shows that the 3D surface area provides a more useful measure of colony growth than the traditional methods of either 2D area or longest dimension.
KeywordsColony Size Great Barrier Reef Reef Flat Coral Species Colony Growth
The authors would like to thank Selina Ward and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from The University of Queensland and Merrick Ekins from the Queensland Museum for access to coral skeletons and to the three anonymous reviewers for comments on the draft manuscript. All experiments undertaken within this study comply with the current laws of Australia, the country in which they were performed.
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