Stony coral recruitment in coral reefs at different distances from pollution sources in Habana, Cuba. The effect of pollution on coral recruitment has been insufficiently studied. This research deals with coral recruitment in coastal areas and aimed to determine the variations of density and dominant species of corals recruits in sites at different distances from pollution sources. The composition and structure of stony coral (scleractinian and milleporids) recruit associations were characterized in the fringing reef of Western Havana, Cuba. This reef is influenced by urban pollution from the Almendares River and a sewage outlet located at its mouth. Four sites were sampled on the upper fore reef escarpment at 10m deep every three months between July 2007 and May 2008. A 25cm side quadrat was used to determine the density and taxonomic composition of recruits smaller than 3cm in diameter. Sampling units were placed following a random-systematic pattern. The mean density of recruits was determined both at assemble and species level. Bifactoral ANOVA tests were applied to compare mean densities at both sampling sites and dates. Student-Newman-Keuls test was applied to compare pairs of means. Cluster and nMDS analyses were applied to evaluate between site similarities. The predominant species was Siderastrea siderea followed by S. radians and Porites astreoides. Recruit densities were similar among La Puntilla, Calle 16 and Acuario sites. Lower densities were always found in Malecón. Significant differences in mean stony recruit densities were found both between sites and sampling dates. The statistic analysis did not show significant spatial-temporal interactions. Malecón, the most polluted site, showed the lowest recruit density and the greater presence of species considered as indicators of organic pollution, sedimentation and abrasion. The density of recruit species was higher in October 2007 and lower in May 2008, and it was apparently influenced by reproduction and cold front seasons, respectively. The higher dominance and abundance of S. siderea, S. radians and P. astreoides recruits were apparently due to their high reproductive potential and resistance to disturbances. The identity of dominant species was apparently related to distance from major pollution sources. We highly recommended the replication of this research in other areas of the greater Caribbean region to test the generality of present results and to compare among areas. Future research should take into account the influence of other environmental factors, along with an appraisal of recruit species tolerance to these factors, to better ponder the effect of urban pollution on recruitment. Areas with well assessed pollution regimes are recommended for research.
Keywords: stony corals, pollution, dominant species, density, recruitment.