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Quantity, composition, and source of sediment collected in sediment traps along the fringing coral reef off Molokai, Hawaii

January 1, 2006

Sediment traps were used to evaluate the frequency, cause, and relative intensity of sediment mobility/resuspension along the fringing coral reef off southern Molokai (February 2000–May 2002). Two storms with high rainfall, floods, and exceptionally high waves resulted in sediment collection rates > 1000 times higher than during non-storm periods, primarily because of sediment resuspension by waves. Based on quantity and composition of trapped sediment, floods recharged the reef flat with land-derived sediment, but had a low potential for burying coral on the fore reef when accompanied by high waves.

The trapped sediments have low concentrations of anthropogenic metals. The magnetic properties of trapped sediment may provide information about the sources of land-derived sediment reaching the fore reef. The high trapping rate and low sediment cover indicate that coral surfaces on the fore reef are exposed to transient resuspended sediment, and that the traps do not measure net sediment accumulation on the reef surface.