Functional links on coral reefs: urchins and triggerfishes, a cautionary tale

Tebbett, Sterling B., and Bellwood, David R. (2018) Functional links on coral reefs: urchins and triggerfishes, a cautionary tale. Marine Environmental Research, 141. pp. 255-263.

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Abstract

Urchins are ubiquitous components of coral reefs ecosystems, with significant roles in bioerosion and herbivory. By controlling urchin densities, triggerfishes have been identified as keystone predators. However, the functional linkages between urchins and triggerfishes, in terms of distributional patterns and concomitant effects on ecosystem processes, are not well understood, especially in relatively unexploited systems. To address this we censused urchins and triggerfishes on two cross-shelf surveys on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) at the same times and locations. We also evaluated the role of urchins in bioerosion. Although urchin abundance and triggerfish biomass varied by 80% and nearly 900% across sites, respectively, this variability was driven primarily by shelf position with no evidence of top-down control on urchins by triggerfishes. Low urchin abundances meant urchins only played a minor role in bioerosion. We highlight the potential variability in functional links, and contributions to ecosystem processes, among regions.

Item ID: 56494
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-0291
Keywords: Bioerosion, Ecosystem processes, Echinoderm, Fish, Great barrier reef, Marine ecology, Predation, Triggerfish, Trophic cascade
Copyright Information: © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 07:41
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
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