Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Liana McManus

Second Committee Member

Chris Langdon

Third Committee Member

Kenneth Broad


Two experiments were performed to determine the effect of ocean acidification on Montastraea faveolata vertical skeletal growth and lesion healing. The first experiment used three different CO2 concentrations: present day atmospheric pCO2, 380 microatm, and the atmospheric pCO2 expected by the years 2050, 560 microatm, and 2100, 800 microatm. The second experiment used 380 and 560 microatm. In the second experiment where the influence of parent colony was analyzed, M. faveolata fragments from one coral colony had significantly slower skeletal growth rates and less healed lesion area than other colonies. Corals that calcify and regenerate tissue slower may have less resilience to ocean acidification. The experiments demonstrated that the corals in 800 microatm grew significantly slower than corals in 380 or 560 microatm. Increased CO2 concentrations increased M. faveolata skeletal growth rates and healed lesion area until a threshold was reached, 560 microatm, then growth rates and healed lesion area decreased. Less than 1% of the variability in healing rates could be explained by CO2. The Nature Conservancy Resilience Model was used as a framework to identify current management strategies of wider Caribbean MPAs that may increase coral reef resilience to climate change. Seven out of the 8 MPAs had representation, critical areas, connectivity, and effective management as determined by each MPA's management plan. Three management plans had specific climate management strategies. Each management plan had actions to build coral reef resilience, but institutional incapacities and other barriers can decrease the ability to increase reef resilience. Because of the weaknesses of the Resilience Model, revised resilience guidelines were developed with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) as a case study. The coral lesion experiment results and interviews with FKNMS managers and the FKNMS's Sanctuary Advisory Council helped design the revised resilience guidelines. The revised climate-based coral reef resilience guidelines are to 1) incorporate more no-take zones and hedge the risks against ocean acidification, 2) identify resilient coral reefs and perform more climate change research, 3) reduce local stressors, 4) enhance coral reef recovery, and 5) increase public awareness and education on climate change impacts to coral reefs.


St. Eustatius National Marine Park; St. Maarten Marine Park; Biscayne National Park; Glover's Reef Marine Reserve; Bonaire National Marine Park; St. Croix East End Marine Park; Hol Chan Marine Reserve; Coral Reef Conservation; Management Action; Marine Protected Areas