Influence of fish grazing and sedimentation on the early post-settlement survival of the tabular coral Acropora cytherea

Trapon, M.L., Pratchett, M.S., Hoey, A.S., and Baird, A.H. (2013) Influence of fish grazing and sedimentation on the early post-settlement survival of the tabular coral Acropora cytherea. Coral Reefs, 32 (4). pp. 1051-1059.

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Processes operating in the early life stages of corals are critical in ultimately establishing patterns of adult abundance. Mortality, in particular, is assumed to be very high during the first few months to years post-settlement, but the sources of this mortality are largely unknown. This study quantified early post-settlement survival for Acropora cytherea, spawned and reared in captivity and settled onto terracotta tiles. Replicate tiles were then deployed in the field at Lizard Island, in northern section of the Great Barrier Reef to examine the effects of grazing and sedimentation on survival of corals in two different habitats, the exposed reef crest and sheltered back reef. Overall, survivorship was broadly comparable between habitats, ranging from 37.7 to 64.5 % per month on the exposed reef crest and 53.1–64.3 % on the sheltered back reef. On the reef crest, the exclusion of herbivores increased survivorship by 22.4 %, from 42.1 to 64.5 % per month. Moreover, survivorship within the reef crest was negatively correlated with the density of parrotfish feeding scars on tiles after 4 weeks. In contrast, the exclusion of herbivores had no detectable effect on survivorship within the back reef, and no feeding scars were observed on tiles in this habitat. Difference in grazing-induced mortality between habitats is most likely related to differences in herbivore size and abundance, with parrotfish biomass being 5.5-fold greater on the reef crest than the back reef. Surprisingly, tile orientation had no effect on survivorship of A. cytherea in either habitat, despite a marked difference in the sediment cover on vertical (0 %) versus horizontal tiles (30 %) in the back reef. This is in marked contrast to previous studies that have reported sedimentation is a major cause of early post-settlement mortality in corals. Clearly, processes that cause mortality of newly settled corals, such as grazing and sedimentation, vary spatially.

Item ID: 28935
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: scleractinian corals, Acropora cytherea, post-settlement mortality, grazing, parrotfishes, sediment, turf algae
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2013 02:58
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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