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Background: Local management action to address coral-reef stressors can improve reef health and mitigate the effects of global climate change. Coastal development and runoff lead to sedimentation, which directly impacts coral recruitment, growth, mortality, and the ecosystem services that coral reefs provide. Decision making for reef resilience in the face of global and local stressors requires information on thresholds for management action. In response to needs identified by reef managers, we plan to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis that will explore the effects of both deposited and suspended sediment on corals to identify single and interacting stressor thresholds. We will identify levels of sediment exposure (i.e., concentration, duration, and frequency) that cause adverse physical, physiological, behavioral, developmental, and ecological responses in coral and describe geographic and taxonomic patterns in these responses. Our ultimate goal is to provide managers with sediment exposure thresholds that can be expected to cause these responses. Methods: Our systematic review will synthesize available evidence on the effects of suspended and deposited sediment on corals. The research questions were formulated with an advisory team to support management decisions concerning local reef stressors in waters under U.S. federal jurisdiction. While the advisory team is most concerned with reefs adjacent to U.S. Pacific Islands, our review will include studies that examine reef-building coral species around the world. We will search online databases and grey literature to obtain a list of potential studies, assess their relevance, and critically appraise them for validity and risk of bias. Provided enough data can be extracted from relevant experimental studies, we will conduct meta-analyses that examine changes in coral health and survival in response to suspended and/or deposited sediment, with the goal to define sediment thresholds for reef managers. If enough data are available from within the U.S. Pacific Islands, we will construct region-, site-, and/or species-specific thresholds to improve local management.
Tuttle, L. J., Johnson, C., Kolinski, S., Minton, D., & Donahue, M. J. (2020, August 8). How does sediment exposure affect corals? A systematic review protocol. Environmental Evidence. BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13750-020-00200-0
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