Macroalgae exhibit diverse responses to human disturbances on coral reefs

Cannon, Sara E., Donner, Simon D., Liu, Angela, González Espinosa, Pedro C., Baird, Andrew H., Baum, Julia K., Bauman, Andrew G., Beger, Maria, Benkwitt, Cassandra E., Birt, Matthew J., Chancerelle, Yannick, Cinner, Joshua E., Crane, Nicole L., Denis, Vianney, Depczynski, Martial, Fadli, Nur, Fenner, Douglas, Fulton, Christopher J., Golbuu, Yimnang, Graham, Nicholas A.J., Guest, James, Harrison, Hugo B., Hobbs, Jean-Paul A., Hoey, Andrew S., Holmes, Thomas H., Houk, Peter, Januchowski-Hartley, Fraser A., Jompa, Jamaluddin, Kuo, Chao-Yang, Limmon, Gino Valentino, Lin, Yuting V., McClanahan, Timothy R., Muenzel, Dominic, Paddack, Michelle J., Planes, Serge, Pratchett, Morgan S., Radford, Ben, Reimer, James Davis, Richards, Zoe T., Ross, Claire L., Rulmal Jr., John, Sommer, Brigitte, Williams, GarethJ., and Wilson, Shaun K. (2023) Macroalgae exhibit diverse responses to human disturbances on coral reefs. Global Change Biology, 29 (12). pp. 3318-3330.

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Scientists and managers rely on indicator taxa such as coral and macroalgal cover to evaluate the effects of human disturbance on coral reefs, often assuming a universally positive relationship between local human disturbance and macroalgae. Despite evidence that macroalgae respond to local stressors in diverse ways, there have been few efforts to evaluate relationships between specific macroalgae taxa and local human-driven disturbance. Using genus-level monitoring data from 1205 sites in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, we assess whether macroalgae percent cover correlates with local human disturbance while accounting for factors that could obscure or confound relationships. Assessing macroalgae at genus level revealed that no genera were positively correlated with all human disturbance metrics. Instead, we found relationships between the division or genera of algae and specific human disturbances that were not detectable when pooling taxa into a single functional category, which is common to many analyses. The convention to use percent cover of macroalgae as an indication of local human disturbance therefore likely obscures signatures of local anthropogenic threats to reefs. Our limited understanding of relationships between human disturbance, macroalgae taxa, and their responses to human disturbances impedes the ability to diagnose and respond appropriately to these threats.

Item ID: 78466
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2486
Keywords: coral reef health, coral reefs, Indian Ocean, local human disturbance, macroalgae, multiple stressors, Pacific Ocean
Copyright Information: © 2023 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: ARC LP160101508, ARC CE140100020, ARC DP0877905, ARC FT160100047, ARC P110101540
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2023 22:32
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 100%
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