Parrotfish corallivory on stress-tolerant corals in the Anthropocene

Huertas Martin, Victor, Morais, Renato A., Bonaldo, Roberta M., and Bellwood, David R. (2021) Parrotfish corallivory on stress-tolerant corals in the Anthropocene. PLoS ONE, 16 (9). e0250725.

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Abstract

Cumulative anthropogenic stressors on tropical reefs are modifying the physical and community structure of coral assemblages, altering the rich biological communities that depend on this critical habitat. As a consequence, new reef configurations are often characterized by low coral cover and a shift in coral species towards massive and encrusting corals. Given that coral numbers are dwindling in these new reef systems, it is important to evaluate the potential influence of coral predation on these remaining corals. We examined the effect of a key group of coral predators (parrotfishes) on one of the emerging dominant coral taxa on Anthropocene reefs, massive Porites. Specifically, we evaluate whether the intensity of parrotfish predation on this key reef-building coral has changed in response to severe coral reef degradation. We found evidence that coral predation rates may have decreased, despite only minor changes in parrotfish abundance. However, higher scar densities on small Porites colonies, compared to large colonies, suggests that the observed decrease in scarring rates may be a reflection of colony-size specific rates of feeding scars. Reduced parrotfish corallivory may reflect the loss of small Porites colonies, or changing foraging opportunities for parrotfishes. The reduction in scar density on massive Porites suggests that the remaining stress-tolerant corals may have passed the vulnerable small colony stage. These results highlight the potential for shifts in ecological functions on ecosystems facing high levels of environmental stress.

Item ID: 70134
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2021 Huertas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2021 05:07
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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