Environmental limits to growth: physiological niche boundaries of corals along turbidity - light gradients

Anthony, Kenneth R. N., and Connolly, Sean R. (2004) Environmental limits to growth: physiological niche boundaries of corals along turbidity - light gradients. Oecologia, 141 (3). pp. 373-384.

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The physiological responses of organisms to resources and environmental conditions are important determinants of niche boundaries. In previous work, functional relationships between organism energetics and environment have been limited to energy intakes. However, energetic costs of maintenance may also depend on the supply of resources. In many mixotrophic organisms, two such resource types are light and particle concentration (turbidity). Using two coral species with contrasting abundances along light and turbidity gradients (Acropora valida and Turbinaria mesenterina), we incorporate the dual resource-stressor roles of these variables by calibrating functional responses of energy costs (respiration and loss of organic carbon) as well as energy intake (photosynthesis and particle feeding). This allows us to characterize physiological niche boundaries along light and turbidity gradients, identify species-specific differences in these boundaries, and assess the sensitivity of these differences to interspecific differences in particular functional response parameters. The turbidity-light niche of T. mesenterina was substantially larger than that of A. valida, consistent with its broader ecological distribution. As expected, the responses of photosynthesis, heterotrophic capacity, respiration, and organic carbon loss to light and turbidity varied between species. Niche boundaries were highly sensitive to the functional responses of energy costs to light and turbidity. Moreover, the study species' niche differences were almost entirely attributable to species-specific differences in one functional response: that of respiration to turbidity. These results demonstrate that functional responses of energy-loss processes are important determinants of species-specific physiological limits to growth, and thereby of niche differences in reef corals. Given that many resources can stress organisms when supply rates are high, we propose that the functional responses of energy losses will prove to be important determinants of niche differences in other systems as well.

Item ID: 6981
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1939
Keywords: energy balance; functional response; irradiance; Scleractinian coral; sediment
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2010 03:03
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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