Influence of land runoff on rates and agents of bioerosion of coral substrates
Annually large volumes of fresh water laden with sediment are washed down the Daintree River in North Queensland into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. To investigate the effects of land runoff on bioerosion, samples of recently killed colonies of Porites were laid at 6 sites on a cross shelf transect from Snapper Island at the entrance to the river to Osprey Reef, 328 km from the river mouth out in the Coral Sea. Rates and agents of bioerosion were determined over 4 years and inshore sites exhibited significantly lower rates of total bioerosion than the other sites. Offshore sites experienced high rates of bioerosion primarily due to grazing and internal bioerosion by macroborers such as sponges and bivalves was also important at some of these sites. Inshore sites were covered in heavy layers of silt which inhibited colonization and growth of microborers, primarily algae. This resulted in lower levels of grazing than at offshore sites. However the activity of macroborers (primarily sponges and bivalves) was often high at these sites. The macroboring communities differed between sites and over time and it is hypothesised that these site differences were due to different levels of terrestrial runoff. These results are compared with those from French Polynesia where contaminated terrestrial runoff greatly influenced rates and agents of bioerosion. However other factors such as overfishing may also play an important role in some locations.