Simulated macro-algal outbreak triggers a large-scale response on coral reefs

Welsh, Justin Q., and Bellwood, David R. (2015) Simulated macro-algal outbreak triggers a large-scale response on coral reefs. PLoS One, 10 (7). pp. 1-16.

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Abstract

Ecosystem degradation has become common throughout the world. On coral reefs, macroalgal outbreaks are one of the most widely documented signs of degradation. This study simulated local-scale degradation on a healthy coral reef to determine how resident taxa, with the potential to reverse algal outbreaks, respond. We utilized a combination of acoustic and video monitoring to quantify changes in the movements and densities, respectively, of coral reef herbivores following a simulated algal outbreak. We found an unprecedented accumulation of functionally important herbivorous taxa in response to algal increases. Herbivore densities increased by 267% where algae were present. The increase in herbivore densities was driven primarily by an accumulation of the browsing taxa Naso unicornis and Kyphosus vaigiensis, two species which are known to be important in removing macroalgae and which may be capable of reversing algal outbreaks. However, resident individuals at the site of algal increase exhibited no change in their movements. Instead, analysis of the size classes of the responding individuals indicates that large functionally-important nonresident individuals changed their movement patterns to move in and feed on the algae. This suggests that local-scale reef processes may not be sufficient to mitigate the effects of local degradation and highlights the importance of mobile links and cross-scale interactions.

Item ID: 41964
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Additional Information:

© 2015 Welsh, Bellwood. 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.

ISSN: 1932-6203
Funders: Australian Museum, Lizard Island Doctoral Research Fellowship, ARC CoE for Integrated Coral Reef Studies
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 18:09
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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