Natural bounds on herbivorous coral reef fishes

Heenan, Adel, Hoey, Andrew S., Williams, Gareth J., and Williams, Ivor D. (2016) Natural bounds on herbivorous coral reef fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 283 (1843). 20161716. pp. 1-9.

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Humans are an increasingly dominant driver of Earth's biological communities, but differentiating human impacts from natural drivers of ecosystem state is crucial. Herbivorous fish play a key role in maintaining coral dominance on coral reefs, and are widely affected by human activities, principally fishing. We assess the relative importance of human and biophysical (habitat and oceanographic) drivers on the biomass of five herbivorous functional groups among 33 islands in the central and western Pacific Ocean. Human impacts were clear for some, but not all, herbivore groups. Biomass of browsers, large excavators, and of all herbivores combined declined rapidly with increasing human population density, whereas grazers, scrapers, and detritivores displayed no relationship. Sea-surface temperature had significant but opposing effects on the biomass of detritivores (positive) and browsers (negative). Similarly, the biomass of scrapers, grazers, and detritivores correlated with habitat structural complexity; however, relationships were group specific. Finally, the biomass of browsers and large excavators was related to island geomorphology, both peaking on low-lying islands and atolls. The substantial variability in herbivore populations explained by natural biophysical drivers highlights the need for locally appropriate management targets on coral reefs.

Item ID: 48417
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: fish biomass, functional group, herbivore, human drivers, natural drivers, Pacific Ocean
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© 2016 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP)
Projects and Grants: CRCP grant no. 828
Date Deposited: 15 May 2017 01:39
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 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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