Benthic cyanobacterial mat formation during severe coral bleaching at Lizard Island: The mediating role of water currents

Tebbett, Sterling B., Streit, Robert P., Morais, Juliano, Schlaefer, Jodie A., Swan, Sam, and Bellwood, David R. (2022) Benthic cyanobacterial mat formation during severe coral bleaching at Lizard Island: The mediating role of water currents. Marine Environmental Research, 181. 105752.

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Cyanobacterial mats are increasingly recognised as a symptom of coral reef change. However, the spatial distribution of cyanobacterial mats during coral bleaching has received limited attention. We explored cyanobacterial mat distribution during a bleaching event at Lizard Island and considered hydrodynamics as a potential modifier. During bleaching cyanobacterial mats covered up to 34% of the benthos at a transect scale, while some quadrats (1 m2) were covered almost entirely (97.5%). The spatial distribution of cyanobacterial mats was limited to areas with slower water currents. Coral cover declined by 44% overall, although cyanobacterial mats were not spatially coupled to the magnitude of coral loss. Overall, the marked increase in cyanobacterial mat cover was an ephemeral spike, not a sustained change, with cover returning to 0.4% within 6 months. Cyanobacterial mats clearly represent dynamic space holders on coral reefs, with a marked capacity to rapidly exploit change, if conditions are right.

Item ID: 76381
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-0291
Keywords: Benthic composition, Coral bleaching, Coral loss, Cyanobacteria, Great Barrier reef, Hydrodynamics
Copyright Information: Published Version: © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. AAM may be made open access under a CC BY-NC-ND license after a 24 month embargo.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2023 01:27
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1905 Understanding climate change > 190504 Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts) @ 100%
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