The influence of coral reef benthic condition on associated fish assemblages

Chong-Seng, Karen M., Mannering, Thomas D., Pratchett, Morgan S., Bellwood, David R., and Graham, Nicholas A.J. (2012) The influence of coral reef benthic condition on associated fish assemblages. PLoS ONE, 7 (8). e42167. pp. 1-10.

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Accumulative disturbances can erode a coral reef's resilience, often leading to replacement of scleractinian corals by macroalgae or other non-coral organisms. These degraded reef systems have been mostly described based on changes in the composition of the reef benthos, and there is little understanding of how such changes are influenced by, and in turn influence, other components of the reef ecosystem. This study investigated the spatial variation in benthic communities on fringing reefs around the inner Seychelles islands. Specifically, relationships between benthic composition and the underlying substrata, as well as the associated fish assemblages were assessed. High variability in benthic composition was found among reefs, with a gradient from high coral cover (up to 58%) and high structural complexity to high macroalgae cover (up to 95%) and low structural complexity at the extremes. This gradient was associated with declining species richness of fishes, reduced diversity of fish functional groups, and lower abundance of corallivorous fishes. There were no reciprocal increases in herbivorous fish abundances, and relationships with other fish functional groups and total fish abundance were weak. Reefs grouping at the extremes of complex coral habitats or low-complexity macroalgal habitats displayed markedly different fish communities, with only two species of benthic invertebrate feeding fishes in greater abundance in the macroalgal habitat. These results have negative implications for the continuation of many coral reef ecosystem processes and services if more reefs shift to extreme degraded conditions dominated by macroalgae.

Item ID: 23463
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
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© 2012 Chong-Seng et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2012 03:52
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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