Spatial patterns in the cover and composition of macroalgal assemblages on fringing and nearshore coral reefs

Webber, K., Srinivasan, M., Coppock, A. G., and Jones, G. P. (2022) Spatial patterns in the cover and composition of macroalgal assemblages on fringing and nearshore coral reefs. Marine and Freshwater Research, 73 (11). pp. 1310-1322.

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Context: Although increases in macroalgal cover on coral reefs are often reported alongside declines in coral, the composition of algal assemblages and their spatial dynamics are not commonly investigated.

Aims: To quantify changes in macroalgal assemblage composition over two spatial environmental gradients, depth and distance from shore, within a nearshore reef system in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, where coral cover has declined.

Methods: Benthic cover was quantified at three depths (reef flat, 10 and 15 m) on the windward reef slopes of six reefs located three distances from shore (fringing reefs, and platform reefs 100–200 m and 0.7−1 km offshore).

Key results: Macroalgal cover was highest on the reef flat, and assemblage composition varied among depths and distances from shore. Macroalgal cover was not correlated with coral cover except where macroalgal cover was greater than 20%, where a negative correlation occurred. There was no correlation between macroalgal cover and turf algal cover. All three benthic groups were negatively correlated with the combined total cover of sand and gravel.

Conclusions: These results indicated a fine-scale spatial structure of macroalgal assemblages on coral reefs over a narrow depth range and short distance from shore and highlighted the importance of a solid substratum.

Implications: It is likely that the ecological interactions between corals and macroalgae vary considerably over narrow spatial gradients.

Item ID: 75832
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1448-6059
Keywords: benthic community, depth distribution, macroalgal diversity, marine ecology, Padina, Sargassum, terrestrial runoff, Turbinaria
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE0561435
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2022 09:06
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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