Scleractinian coral recruitment patterns were studied at depths of 9, 18, 27 and 37 m on the east and west walls of Salt River submarine canyon, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, by censusing coral juveniles which settled on experimental settling plates placed on the reef for 3–26 months as well as coral juveniles within quadrats on the reef. The most common species in the juvenile population within quadrats were Agaricia agaricites, Porites astreoides, Madracis decactis, Stephanocoenia michelinii, and A. lamarcki. The only species settling on settling plates were Agaricia spp., Madracis decactis, Porites spp., Stephanocoenia michelinii and Favia fragum. A total of 271 corals settled on 342 plates, with 51% of the juveniles on the east wall and 49% on the west wall. Of these 34% settled on horizontal surfaces and 66% on vertical surfaces. Based on results from quadrats, Agaricia agaricites and Porites astreoides had high recruitment rates relative to their abundance on the reef. In contrast, Agaricia lamarcki, Montastraea annularis, M. cavernosa and Siderastrea siderea had high amounts of cover compared to their abundance as juveniles within quadrats. The mean number of juveniles per m2 within quadrats ranged from 3 to 42. In general, there was a decrease in the mean number of juveniles and the number of species with depth. Total number of juveniles on settling plates was highest at 18 m on both walls. The largest number within quadrats was at 18 m on the east wall, followed by 9 m and 18 m on the west wall. High rates of coral recruitment tended to be associated with low algal biomass and relatively high grazing pressure by urchins and fishes.
Scleractinia (Hard Corals)
US Virgin Islands
SCUBA (open-circuit or unspecified)