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  1. Abstract

    Climate plays a central role in coral-reef development, especially in marginal environments. The high-latitude reefs of southeast Florida are currently non-accreting, relict systems with low coral cover. This region also did not support the extensive Late Pleistocene reef development observed in many other locations around the world; however, there is evidence of significant reef building in southeast Florida during the Holocene. Using 146 radiometric ages from reefs extending ~ 120 km along Florida’s southeast coast, we test the hypothesis that the latitudinal extent of Holocene reef development in this region was modulated by climatic variability. We demonstrate that although sea-level changes impacted rates of reef accretion and allowed reefs to backstep inshore as new habitats were flooded, sea level was not the ultimate cause of reef demise. Instead, we conclude that climate was the primary driver of the expansion and contraction of Florida’s reefs during the Holocene. Reefs grew to 26.7° N in southeast Florida during the relatively warm, stable climate at the beginning of the Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM) ~ 10,000 years ago, but subsequent cooling and increased frequency of winter cold fronts were associated with the equatorward contraction of reef building. By ~ 7800 years ago, actively accreting reefs only extended to 26.1° N. Reefs furthermore »contracted to 25.8° N after 5800 years ago, and by 3000 years ago reef development had terminated throughout southern Florida (24.5–26.7° N). Modern warming is unlikely to simply reverse this trend, however, because the climate of the Anthropocene will be fundamentally different from the HTM. By increasing the frequency and intensity of both warm and cold extreme-weather events, contemporary climate change will instead amplify conditions inimical to reef development in marginal reef environments such as southern Florida, making them more likely to continue to deteriorate than to resume accretion in the future.

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  2. Abstract

    Throughout the Galápagos, differences in coral reef development and coral population dynamics were evaluated by monitoring populations from 2000–2019, and environmental parameters (sea temperatures, pH, NO3, PO43−) from 2015–19. The chief goal was to explain apparent coral community differences between the northern (Darwin and Wolf) and southern (Sta. Cruz, Fernandina, San Cristóbal, Española, Isabela) islands. Site coral species richness was highest at Darwin and Wolf. In the three most common coral taxa, a declining North (N)-South (S) trend in colony sizes existed forPorites lobataandPocilloporaspp., but not forPavona  spp. Frequent coral recruitment was observed in all areas. Algal competition was highest at Darwin, but competition by bioeroding sea urchins and burrowing fauna (polychaete worms, bivalve mollusks) increased from N to S with declining coral skeletal density. A biophysical model suggested strong connectivity among southern islands with weaker connectivity to Wolf and even less to Darwin. Also, strong connectivity was observed between Darwin and Wolf, but from there only intermittently to the south. From prevailing ocean current trajectories, coral larvae from Darwin and Wolf drift primarily towards Malpelo and Cocos Islands, some reaching Costa Rica and Colombia. Mean temperature, pH, and PO43−declined from N to S. Strong thermocline shoaling, especially inmore »the warm season, was observed at most sites. A single environmental factor could not explain the variability in observed coral community characteristics, with minimum temperature, pH and nutrient levels the strongest determinants. Thus, complex environmental determinants combined with larval connectivity patterns may explain why the northern Galápagos Islands (Darwin, Wolf) have higher coral richness and cover and also recover more rapidly than central/southern islands after region-wide disturbances. These northern islands are therefore potentially of critical conservation importance as important reservoirs of regional coral biodiversity and source of larvae.

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