Freeman, L. A., A. J. Miller, R. D. Norris and J. E. Smith, 2012:

Classification of remote Pacific coral reefs by oceanographic physical environment

Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 117, C02007,

Abstract. The oceanographic environment is a key element in structuring coral reef ecosystems by setting the range of physical and chemical conditions in which coral reef-builders live. A cluster analysis of physical and chemical oceanographic data is used to classify coral habitats in the remote tropical and subtropical Pacific ocean based on average temperature, temperature seasonal cycle, nutrient levels, salinity, aragonite saturation state, storm frequency, intense hurricane hits, and dissolved oxygen as well as temperature anomalies in degree heating weeks. The resulting seven geographic habitats are stable to perturbations in types of data used in the cluster analysis. Based on recent coral reef survey data in the area, coral cover was related to the identified geographic regions. The habitats tend to be geographically clustered, and each is characterized by a unique combination of oceanographic conditions. Previous studies suggest coral reef habitats are associated with a uniform array of oceanographic conditions, while our results demonstrate that finer-scale variations in physical variables may control coral reef environments. The results better define the physical environment of remote coral reefs, forming a foundation for future work addressing physical habitat perturbation and anthropogenic impacts on reefs.

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