This study is aimed at establishing a baseline on the genetic diversity of the Acropora corals of Sabah, North Borneo based on variations in the partial COI and CYB nucleotide sequences. Comparison across 50 shallow-water Acropora morphospecies indicated that the low substitution rates in the two genes were due to negative selection and that rate heterogeneity between them was asymmetric. CYB appeared to have evolved faster than COI in the Acropora as indicated by differences in the rate of pairwise genetic distance, degrees of transition bias (Ts/Tv), synonymous-to-nonsynonymous rate ratio (dN/dS), and substitution patterns at the three codon positions. Despite the relatively high haplotype diversity (Hd), nucleotide diversity (π) of the haplotype datasets was low due to stringent purifying selection operating on the genes. Subsequently, we identified individual COI and CYB haplotypes that were each extensively shared across sympatrically and allopatrically distributed Indo-Pacific Acropora. These reciprocally common mtDNA types were suspected to be ancestral forms of the genes whereas other haplotypes have mostly evolved from autoapomorphic mutations which have not been fixed within the species even though they are selectively neutral. To our knowledge, this is the first report on DNA barcodes of Acropora species in North Borneo and this understanding will play an important role in the management and conservation of these important reef-building corals.
The coral reefs at the northernmost tip of Sabah, Borneo will be established under a marine protected area: the Tun Mustapha Park (TMP) by the end of 2015. This area is a passage where the Sulu Sea meets the South China Sea and it is situated at the border of the area of maximum marine biodiversity, the Coral Triangle. The TMP includes fringing and patch reefs established on a relatively shallow sea floor. Surveys were carried out to examine features of the coral reefs in terms of scleractinian species richness, and benthic reef assemblages following the Reef Check substrate categories, with emphasis on hard coral cover. Variation in scleractinian diversity was based on the species composition of coral families Fungiidae (n = 39), Agariciidae (n = 30) and Euphylliidae (n = 15). The number of coral species was highest at reefs with a larger depth gradient i.e. at the periphery of the study area and in the deep South Banggi Channel. Average live hard coral cover across the sites was 49%. Only 7% of the examined reefs had > 75% hard coral cover, while the majority of the reef sites were rated fair (51%) and good (38%). Sites with low coral cover and high rubble fragments are evidence of blast fishing, although the observed damage appeared old. Depth was a dominant factor in influencing the coral species composition and benthic reef communities in the TMP. Besides filling in the information gaps regarding species richness and benthic cover for reef areas that were previously without any data, the results of this study together with information that is already available on the coral reefs of TMP will be used to make informed decisions on zoning plans for conservation priorities in the proposed park.
A new scleractinian coral species, Pachyseris inattesa sp. n., is described from the Red Sea. Despite a superficial resemblance with some species in the agariciid genus Leptoseris with which it has been previously confused, P. inattesa sp. n. has micro-morphological characters typical of the genus Pachyseris. This genus, once part of the Agariciidae, is comprised of five extant species and is widely distributed throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. It is currently incertae sedis as a result of recent molecular analysis and appears to be closely related to the Euphylliidae. A molecular phylogenetic reconstruction including P. inattesa sp. n., the genus type species P. rugosa, and P. speciosa, all present in the Red Sea, was performed using the mitochondrial intergenic spacer between COI and 16S-rRNA. The results confirm that P. inattesa sp. n. is a monophyletic lineage closely related to the other Pachyseris species examined.
Layang-Layang is a small island part of an oceanic atoll in the Spratly Islands off Sabah, Malaysia. As the reef coral fauna in this part of the South China Sea is poorly known, a survey was carried out in 2013 to study the species composition of the scleractinian coral families Fungiidae, Agariciidae and Euphylliidae. A total of 56 species was recorded. The addition of three previously reported coral species brings the total to 59, consisting of 32 Fungiidae, 22 Agariciidae, and five Euphylliidae. Of these, 32 species are new records for Layang-Layang, which include five rarely reported species, i.e., the fungiids Lithophyllonranjithi, Podabaciasinai, Sandalolithaboucheti, and the agariciids Leptoseriskalayaanensis and Leptoseristroglodyta. The coral fauna of Layang-Layang is poor compared to other areas in Sabah, which may be related to its recovery from a crown-of-thorns seastar outbreak in 2010, and its low habitat diversity, which is dominated by reef slopes consisting of steep outer walls. Based on integrative molecular and morphological analyses, a Pavona variety with small and extremely thin coralla was revealed as Pavonamaldivensis. Since specimens from Sabah previously identified as Pavonamaldivensis were found to belong to Pavonaexplanulata, the affinities and distinctions of Pavonamaldivensis and Pavonaexplanulata are discussed.
Marine litter is recognized as an increasing component of marine ecosystem pollution. In this baseline study, we document the magnitude, types, sources, and potential impacts of litter on six coral reefs in East Sabah. We applied a simplified classification of litter to extract abundance data from video transects. The average density was 10.7 items per 100 m2. Plastics represent 91% and the remaining 9% were metal, glass, and wood. Most (~70%) plastics are single-use items derived from dumping. Discarded fishing gear accounts for ~25%. Litter pollution increases closer to urban developments, with Sakar reef having higher densities (51 items per 100 m2), and higher Clean Coast Index (CCI = 10.2, dirty) and higher Plastic Abundance Index (PAI = 4.68) scores. This method could and should be readily integrated into ongoing monitoring programs to support assessments of the extent and magnitude of marine litter pollution on reefs worldwide.
Acropora is the most biologically diverse group of reef-building coral, and its richness peaks at the Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago, the centre of global coral reef biodiversity. In this paper, we describe the species richness of Acropora fauna of North Borneo, East Malaysia, based on review of literature and as corroborated by voucher specimens. Eighty-three species of Acropora are reported here; four species are literature based and 79 are supported by voucher specimens that were subsequently photographed. New records for North Borneo were recorded for 12 species, including Acropora suharsonoi Wallace 1994 that was previously thought to be confined to a few islands along Lombok Strait, Indonesia. The diversity of Acropora in North Borneo is comparable to that of Indonesia and the Philippines, despite the area's smaller reef areas. This further reinforces its inclusion as part the global hotspot of coral biodiversity.
Given predicted increases in urbanization in tropical and subtropical regions, understanding the processes shaping urban coral reefs may be essential for anticipating future conservation challenges. We used a case study approach to identify unifying patterns of urban coral reefs and clarify the effects of urbanization on hard coral assemblages. Data were compiled from 11 cities throughout East and Southeast Asia, with particular focus on Singapore, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Naha (Okinawa). Our review highlights several key characteristics of urban coral reefs, including "reef compression" (a decline in bathymetric range with increasing turbidity and decreasing water clarity over time and relative to shore), dominance by domed coral growth forms and low reef complexity, variable city-specific inshore-offshore gradients, early declines in coral cover with recent fluctuating periods of acute impacts and rapid recovery, and colonization of urban infrastructure by hard corals. We present hypotheses for urban reef community dynamics and discuss potential of ecological engineering for corals in urban areas.
Coral reefs in the Central Indo-Pacific region comprise some of the most diverse and yet threatened marine habitats. While reef monitoring has grown throughout the region in recent years, studies of coral reef benthic cover remain limited in spatial and temporal scales. Here, we analysed 24,365 reef surveys performed over 37 years at 1972 sites throughout East Asia by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network using Bayesian approaches. Our results show that overall coral cover at surveyed reefs has not declined as suggested in previous studies and compared to reef regions like the Caribbean. Concurrently, macroalgal cover has not increased, with no indications of phase shifts from coral to macroalgal dominance on reefs. Yet, models incorporating socio-economic and environmental variables reveal negative associations of coral cover with coastal urbanisation and sea surface temperature. The diversity of reef assemblages may have mitigated cover declines thus far, but climate change could threaten reef resilience. We recommend prioritisation of regionally coordinated, locally collaborative long-term studies for better contextualisation of monitoring data and analyses, which are essential for achieving reef conservation goals.
The discovery of multi-species synchronous spawning of scleractinian corals on the Great Barrier Reef in the 1980s stimulated an extraordinary effort to document spawning times in other parts of the globe. Unfortunately, most of these data remain unpublished which limits our understanding of regional and global reproductive patterns. The Coral Spawning Database (CSD) collates much of these disparate data into a single place. The CSD includes 6178 observations (3085 of which were unpublished) of the time or day of spawning for over 300 scleractinian species in 61 genera from 101 sites in the Indo-Pacific. The goal of the CSD is to provide open access to coral spawning data to accelerate our understanding of coral reproductive biology and to provide a baseline against which to evaluate any future changes in reproductive phenology.