Collapsing ecosystem functions on an inshore coral reef

Tebbett, Sterling B., Morais, Renato A., Goatley, Christopher, and Bellwood, David R. (2021) Collapsing ecosystem functions on an inshore coral reef. Journal of Environmental Management, 289. 112471.

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Abstract

Ecosystem functions underpin productivity and key services to humans, such as food provision. However, as the severity of environmental stressors intensifies, it is becoming increasingly unclear if, and to what extent, critical functions and services can be sustained. This issue is epitomised on coral reefs, an ecosystem at the forefront of environmental transitions. We provide a functional profile of a coral reef ecosystem, linking time-series data to quantified processes. The data reveal a prolonged collapse of ecosystem functions in this previously resilient system. The results suggest that sediment accumulation in algal turfs has led to a decline in resource yields to herbivorous fishes and a decrease in fish-based ecosystem functions, including a collapse of both fish biomass and productivity. Unfortunately, at present, algal turf sediment accumulation is rarely monitored nor managed in coral reef systems. Our examination of functions through time highlights the value of directly assessing functions, their potential vulnerability, and the capacity of algal turf sediments to overwhelm productive high-diversity coral reef ecosystems.

Item ID: 71226
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1095-8630
Keywords: Algae; Ecosystem management; Ecosystem process; Herbivory; Productivity; Sediment
Copyright Information: Published Version: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Accepted Version may be made open access in an Institutional Repository after a 24 month embargo.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2022 23:56
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 > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 100%
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