Interactions between herbivorous fish guilds and their influence on algal succession on a coastal coral reef

Ceccarelli, D.M., Jones, G.P, and McCook, L.J. (2011) Interactions between herbivorous fish guilds and their influence on algal succession on a coastal coral reef. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 399 (1). pp. 60-67.

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Herbivory is an important mechanism affecting algal succession, particularly on coral reefs where the relationship between algae and corals is largely controlled by herbivores. However, different functional groups of herbivores may have contrasting effects on succession, which may explain different trajectories of coral reef recovery after disturbance. Here, the effects of different herbivore groups (roving herbivores = foragers and territorial damselfish = farmers) were isolated by a multi-factorial experiment carried out on a coastal coral reef with high macroalgal cover, high farmer densities and relatively low forager abundance. The effects of foragers and farmers were distinguished by monitoring algal succession on settlement tiles placed inside and outside exclusion cages, with orthogonal treatments established inside and outside damselfish territories (with appropriate cage controls). Within 12 months, algal assemblages on ungrazed tiles inside exclusion cages proceeded rapidly from fine filamentous turfs, to corticated algae, to tough erect (e.g. Amphiroa spp.) and foliose (e.g. Peyssonnellidae) calcified algae. Farmers had a dramatic impact on succession, essentially arresting the development of the algal community at a point where it was dominated by palatable filamentous algae of the genus Polysiphonia. Fleshy macroalgae such as Sargassum spp. were excluded from farmer territories. In contrast, foragers did not suppress fleshy macroalgae, but rather, appeared to decelerate succession and promote a relatively diverse assemblage. In contrast to forager-dominated reefs, farmer territories did not appear to function solely as forager exclusion areas or promote algal diversity as a result of intermediate grazing pressure. The relatively strong effects of farmers observed here may represent a future scenario for coral reefs that are increasingly subject to overfishing of large grazing fishes.

Item ID: 18772
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0022-0981
Keywords: algal farming; caging experiment; herbivory; inshore reefs; territorial damselfish
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2011 07:01
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 30%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 70%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 20%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 10%
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