Phase shifts and the role of herbivory in the resilience of coral reefs

Ledlie, M., Graham, N. A. J., Bythell, J. C., Wilson, S. K., Jennings, S., Polunin, N. V. C., and Hardcastle, J. (2007) Phase shifts and the role of herbivory in the resilience of coral reefs. Coral Reefs, 26 (3). pp. 641-653.

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Abstract

Cousin Island marine reserve (Seychelles) has been an effectively protected no-take marine protected area (MPA) since 1968 and was shown in 1994 to support a healthy herbivorous fish assemblage. In 1998 Cousin Island reefs suffered extensive coral mortality following a coral bleaching event, and a phase shift from coral to algal dominance ensued. By 2005 mean coral cover was <1%, structural complexity had fallen and there had been a substantial increase in macroalgal cover, up to 40% in some areas. No clear trends were apparent in the overall numerical abundance and biomass of herbivorous fishes between 1994 and 2005, although smaller individuals became relatively scarce, most likely due to the loss of reef structure. Analysis of the feeding habits of six abundant and representative herbivorous fish species around Cousin Island in 2006 demonstrated that epilithic algae were the preferred food resource of all species and that macroalgae were avoided. Given the current dominance of macroalgae and the apparent absence of macroalgal consumers, it is suggested that the increasing abundance of macroalgae is reducing the probability of the system reverting to a coral dominated state.

Item ID: 8848
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: recovery; coral bleaching; Seychelles; marine protected areas; coral reef fishes; feeding observations
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ISSN: 1432-0975
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2010 05:23
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 64
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