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Drivers of herbivory on coral reefs: species, habitat and management effects

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Nash, KL and Abesamis, RA and Graham, NAJ and McClure, EC and Moland, E (2016) Drivers of herbivory on coral reefs: species, habitat and management effects. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 554. pp. 129-140. ISSN 0171-8630

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Abstract

Ecosystems are under increasing pressure from external disturbances. Understanding
how species that drive important functional processes respond to benthic and community
change will have implications for predicting ecosystem recovery. Herbivorous fishes support reefs
in coral-dominated states by mediating competition between coral and macroalgae. Spatiotemporal
variability in herbivore populations and behaviour have direct effects on the removal of algae,
but knowledge of how different drivers impact on herbivore populations and their foraging is currently
lacking. Such knowledge is important to understand whether herbivory is likely to compensate
for changing resource availability, and thus, the potential for reefs to recover from disturbance.
The relative importance of these drivers has implications for the suitability of specific
management actions put in place to support herbivory. Variability in density, body size, foraging
movements and grazing rate of 2 parrotfish species was investigated across reefs exhibiting a
range of benthic and fish community compositions. Foraging movements were influenced by the
benthos, with foraging distances greatest on degraded reefs. In contrast, parrotfish densities were
driven by the management status of the reef; parrotfish size was primarily linked to species identity,
whereas grazing rate was influenced by both management status and species. These findings
suggest that the distribution of foraging effort will vary over time in response to reef condition,
such that feeding becomes more dispersed as reefs degrade. Gear restrictions that protect large,
high-grazing-rate species, or designation of no-take areas, are likely to maximise algal removal,
regardless of reef condition.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Coral reef, Foraging, Functional role, Inter-foray distance, Resilience, Spatial ecology
Journal or Publication Title: Marine Ecology Progress Series
Page Range: pp. 129-140
ISSN: 0171-8630
Identification Number - DOI: 10.3354/meps11795
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2016 03:22
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2016 03:22
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