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Molluscan subfossil assemblages reveal the long-term deterioration of coral reef environments in Caribbean Panama

TitleMolluscan subfossil assemblages reveal the long-term deterioration of coral reef environments in Caribbean Panama
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsCramer K.L, Leonard-Pingel J.S, Rodriguez F., Jackson J.BC
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Date Published2015/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0025-326X
Accession NumberWOS:000357348900031
KeywordsBarbatia cancellaria; Bocas del Toro; bocas-del-toro; central-america; convergence; Dendostrea frons; ecology; gastropods; Historical; human impacts; radiocarbon; richness; species; thalassia communities; Water quality; west-indies

Caribbean reef corals have declined sharply since the 1980s, but the lack of prior baseline data has hindered identification of drivers of change. To assess anthropogenic change in reef environments over the past century, we tracked the composition of subfossil assemblages of bivalve and gastropod mollusks excavated from pits below lagoonal and offshore reefs in Bocas del Toro, Panama. The higher prevalence of (a) infaunal suspension-feeding bivalves and herbivorous and omnivorous gastropods in lagoons and (b) epifaunal and suspension-feeding bivalves and carnivorous and suspension-feeding gastropods offshore reflected the greater influence of land-based nutrients/sediments within lagoons. Temporal changes indicated deteriorating environmental conditions pre-1960 in lagoons and post-1960 offshore, with offshore communities becoming more similar to lagoonal ones since 1960. Relative abundances of dominant bivalve species tracked those of their coral hosts, revealing broader ecosystem effects of coral community change. The nature and timing of changes implicate land-based runoff in reef deterioration. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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