Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Diego Lirman

Second Committee Member

Maria Estevanez

Third Committee Member

Juan Agar


This study developed percent recent mortality to be used as a community-wide indicator of coral reef stress response. Ecosystem indicators are tools used to simplify the monitoring of processes on coral reefs, such as stress response, as well as simplify the communication of these results to the public. Percent recent mortality is a metric used in some of southeast Florida’s long-term reef monitoring projects and shows great promise as an ecological indicator of coral stress response and, inversely, coral health. To develop percent recent mortality for use as an ecological indicator on south Florida reefs, the metric was evaluated using a set of 11 criteria designed by the Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida (MARES) project. Having fulfilled the criteria, survey data from the past 10 years were used to determine minimally impaired reference baselines and stress response benchmarks. Percent recent mortality was designed as a stoplight indicator to improve both utility and communication of the indicator. As an ecological indicator, percent recent mortality has the advantage of simplicity as a measurement of stress experienced in a complex ecosystem. There is more work that can be done to develop this indicator for a wider usage at finer and more accurate scales as an indicator of coral stress response. As percent recent mortality is further utilized as an ecological indicator the data collected will assist its continued improvement and refinement.


coral; survey; indicator; ecosystem; Florida; stress