Using coral growth parameters (extension, density, calcification rates, and luminescence) and geochemical measurements (barium to calcium rations; Ba/Ca) from coral cores collected in west-central Guam, we provide a historic perspective on sediment input to coral reefs adjacent to the Piti-Asan watershed. The months of August through December are dominated by increased coral Ba/Ca values, corresponding to the rainy season. With river water enriched in barium related to nearshore seawater, coral Ba/Ca ratios are presented as a proxy for input of fine-grained terrigenous sediment to the nearshore environment. The century-long Ba/Ca coral record indicates that the Asan fore reef is within the zone of impact from discharged sediments transported from the Piti-Asan watershed and has experienced increased terrestrial sedimentation since the 1940s. This abrupt shift in sedimentation occurred at the same time as both the sudden denudation of the landscape by military ordinance and the immediate subsequent development of the Asan area through the end of the war, from 1944 through 1945. In response to rapid input of sediment, as determined from coral Ba/Ca values, coral growth rates were reduced for almost two decades, while calcification rates recovered much more quickly. Furthermore, coral luminescence is decoupled from the Ba/Ca record, which is consistent with degradation of soil organic matter through disturbance by forest fires, suggesting a potential index of fire history and degradation of soil organic matter. These patterns were not seen in the cores from nearby reefs associated with watersheds that have not undergone the same degree of landscape denudation. Taken together, these records provide a valuable tool for understanding the compounding effects of land-use change on coral reef health.
Additional publication details
Historic impact of watershed change and sedimentation to reefs along west-central Guam