Early post-settlement mortality and the structure of coral assemblages

Penin, Lucie, Michonneau, François, Baird, Andrew H., Connolly, Sean R., Pratchett, Morgan S., Kayal, Mohsen, and Adjeroud, Mehdi (2010) Early post-settlement mortality and the structure of coral assemblages. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 408. pp. 55-64.

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Abstract

Events occurring early in life history can have profound effects on the structure of populations and communities. In particular, susceptibility to predation is often highest early in life, and can greatly influence community structure. To better understand these events in reef-forming coral communities, we investigated how spatial variation in recruitment and early post-settlement predation influenced the spatial structure of a coral assemblage. Over a 5 yr period, we compared recruitment of corals and abundance of juveniles and adults at a combination of 3 locations and 3 depths in French Polynesia. We then measured mortality of recruits (<3 mo old) and juveniles (about 1 to 4 yr old), and abundance of potential predators. Results demonstrate the crucial role of events occurring in the first weeks of the benthic stage. The abundance of scraping herbivorous parrotfishes explained substantial spatial variation in the mortality of recruits, but not juveniles, revealing a likely effect of incidental removal by grazing. Conversely, abundance of coral-feeding butterflyfishes explained substantial spatial variation in the mortality of juveniles. These findings underscore the importance of incidental mortality from grazing and specialized corallivory on coral populations. Moreover, these processes can play a key role in determining spatial patterns in coral assemblage structure.

Item ID: 11647
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: scleractinian corals; recruitment; predation; grazing; population structure; coral reefs; early life-history traits; Moorea; French Polynesia
ISSN: 1616-1599
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2010 06:04
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 34%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 33%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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