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Benthic shift in a Solomon Islands' lagoon: corals to cyanobacteria

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 16:48 authored by Albert, S, Dunbabin, M, Skinner, M, Bradley MooreBradley Moore, Grinham, A
In June 2011 a large phytoplankton bloom resulted in a catastrophic mortality event that affected a large coastal embayment in the Solomon Islands. This consisted of an area in excess of 20 km2 of reef and soft sandy habitats in Marovo Lagoon, the largest double barrier lagoon in the world. This embayment is home to over 1200 people leading largely subsistence lifestyles depending on the impacted reefs for majority of their protein needs. A toxic diatom (Psuedo-nitzchia spp.) and toxic dinoflagellate (Pyrodinium bahamense var. compressum) reached concentrations of millions of cells per litre. The senescent phytoplankton bloom led to complete de-oxygenation of the water column that reportedly caused substantial mortality of marine animal life in the immediate area within a rapid timeframe (24 h). Groups affected included holothurians, crabs and reef and pelagic fish species. Dolphins, reptiles and birds were also found dead within the area, indicating algal toxin accumulation in the food chain. Deep reefs and sediments, whilst initially unaffected, have now been blanketed in large cyanobacterial mats which have negatively impacted live coral cover especially within the deep reef zone (> 6 m depth). Reef recovery within the deep zone has been extremely slow and may indicate an alternative state for the system.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium




Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies

Event title

12th International Coral Reef Symposium

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Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems

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