Damselfishes alleviate the impacts of sediments on host corals

Chase, T. J., Pratchett, M. S., McWilliam, M. J., Hein, M. Y., Tebbett, S. B., and Hoogenboom, M. O. (2020) Damselfishes alleviate the impacts of sediments on host corals. Royal Society Open Science, 7. 192074.

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Mutualisms play a critical role in ecological communities; however, the importance and prevalence of mutualistic associations can be modified by external stressors. On coral reefs, elevated sediment deposition can be a major stressor reducing the health of corals and reef resilience. Here, we investigated the influence of severe sedimentation on the mutualistic relationship between small damselfishes (Pomacentrus moluccensis and Dascyllus aruanus) and their coral host (Pocillopora damicornis). In an aquarium experiment, corals were exposed to sedimentation rates of approximately 100 mg cm−2 d−1, with and without fishes present, to test whether: (i) fishes influence the accumulation of sediments on coral hosts, and (ii) fishes moderate partial colony mortality and/or coral tissue condition. Colonies with fishes accumulated much less sediment compared with colonies without fishes, and this effect was strongest for colonies with D. aruanus (fivefold less sediment than controls) as opposed to P. moluccensis (twofold less sediment than controls). Colonies with symbiont fishes also had up to 10-fold less sediment-induced partial mortality, as well as higher chlorophyll and protein concentrations. These results demonstrate that fish mutualisms vary in the strength of their benefits, and indicate that some mutualistic or facilitative interactions might become more important for species health and resilience at high-stress levels.

Item ID: 63854
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2054-5703
Copyright Information: © 2020 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.
Research Data: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7nq2jb0
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2020 04:40
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 60%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 70%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 30%
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