Spatial variation in the effects of grazing on epilithic algal turfs on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Bonaldo, R.M., and Bellwood, D.R. (2011) Spatial variation in the effects of grazing on epilithic algal turfs on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs, 30 (2). pp. 381-390.

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Of all benthic components on tropical reefs, algal turfs are the most widespread and the main source of primary productivity. We compared the importance of grazing by herbivores on algal turfs on two zones with marked differences in terms of benthic composition, herbivore biomass and grazing pressure, the inner flat and crest, of an inshore reef on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. A combination of herbivore exclusion cages and transplants of coral rubble covered by algal turfs between reef zones was used to examine changes in algal turfs over a 4-day experimental period. In situ crest turfs had lower algal height, sediment loads and particulate content than reef flat turfs. Caged samples on the crest exhibited an increase in all three variables. In contrast, in situ and caged treatments on the flat presented algal turfs with similar values for the three analysed variables, with high algal height and heavy particulate and sediment loads. In the absence of cages, reef flat turfs transplanted to the crest had decreased algal height, total particulate material and particulate inorganic content, while the opposite was found in crest turf samples transplanted to the flat. Our results highlight the dynamic nature of algal turfs and the clear differences in the relative importance of herbivory in shaping turf length and sediment load between the reef crest and inner flat.

Item ID: 18817
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: herbivory, epilithic algal matrix, benthic community, coral reef, sediment
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2011 04:20
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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