Sediment suppresses herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient

Goatley, Christopher H.R., and Bellwood, David R. (2012) Sediment suppresses herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient. Biology Letters, 8 (6). pp. 1016-1018.

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Abstract

Sediments are a ubiquitous feature of all coral reefs, yet our understanding of how they affect complex ecological processes on coral reefs is limited. Sediment in algal turfs has been shown to suppress herbivory by coral reef fishes on high-sediment, low-herbivory reef flats. Here, we investigate the role of sediment in suppressing herbivory across a depth gradient (reef base, crest and flat) by observing fish feeding following benthic sediment reductions. We found that sediment suppresses herbivory across all reef zones. Even slight reductions on the reef crest, which has 35 times less sediment than the reef flat, resulted in over 1800 more herbivore bites (h⁻¹ m⁻²). The Acanthuridae (surgeonfishes) were responsible for over 80 per cent of all bites observed, and on the reef crest and flat took over 1500 more bites (h⁻¹ m⁻²) when sediment load was reduced. These findings highlight the role of natural sediment loads in shaping coral reef herbivory and suggest that changes in benthic sediment loads could directly impair reef resilience.

Item ID: 24655
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1744-957X
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2013 22:43
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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