Expansion of a colonial ascidian following consecutive mass coral bleaching at Lizard Island, Australia

Tebbett, Sterling B., Streit, Robert P., and Bellwood, David R. (2019) Expansion of a colonial ascidian following consecutive mass coral bleaching at Lizard Island, Australia. Marine Environmental Research, 144. pp. 125-129.

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Mass coral bleaching is challenging today's coral reefs. However, our understanding of dynamics in benthic space holders, following such disturbances, is limited. To address this, we quantified successional dynamics of the ascidian, Didemnum cf. molle using a series of temporally and spatially matched photoquadrats across both the 2016 and 2017 mass coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. Unlike corals, D. cf. molle appeared to flourish in the warm temperatures and rapidly expanded. Indeed, colony density increased nearly 6-fold over two years with one quadrat experiencing an increase of over 1000 ind. m⁻². However, this increase did not simply track the increase in space due to coral mortality, but may have benefitted from reduced predation or increased nutrient availability following mass coral mortality. This study highlights the potential for D. cf molle to expand under bleaching conditions and to become a more prominent component of future reef configurations.

Item ID: 57832
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-0291
Keywords: benthos, coral reef, Didemnum molle, ecosystem change, Great Barrier reef, marine ecology, reefs
Copyright Information: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: DRB: grant number CE140100020
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2019 07:43
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
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