Herbivory on coral reefs: community structure following mass mortalities of sea urchins

Hughes, Terence P., Reed, Daniel C., and Boyle, Mary-Jo (1987) Herbivory on coral reefs: community structure following mass mortalities of sea urchins. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 113 (1). pp. 39-59.

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The community structure of Jamaican coral reefs has undergone drastic change since mass mortalities of the long-spined black sea urchin Diadema antillarum Philippi occurred in 1983. In the absence of Diadema, algal abundance has increased enormously, up to a mean of 95% cover or 4.6 kg wet weight · m −2. Coral cover, which was already low on some reefs following Hurricane Allen in 1980, has been further reduced by as much as 60% since 1983 by competition with algae. Densities of D. antillarum at 10 sites in 1986 ranged from 0 to 12% of pre-1983 levels. Other echinoids, which might potentially compensate for the lack of herbivory from D. antillarum, have not increased significantly in density. Numbers of herbivorous scarids and acanthurids also remain at relatively low levels, because of overfishing. In the absence of high densities of fish and sea urchins, it is likely that recent changes in community structure will continue, resulting in further replacement of corals by algae in shallow water. The impact of the urchin mass mortalities is qualitatively similar to previous experimental removals of this species. In both cases, removal of echinoids resulted in substantial increases in macroalgae. However, quantitatively, the responses of algal and coral communities to the natural die-off were significantly greater, probably due to wide differences in spatial and temporal scales of the respective perturbations.

Item ID: 25782
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0022-0981
Keywords: herbivory; coral reef; alga; Diadema antillarum
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2013 05:50
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 > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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