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Coral-macroalgal phase shifts or reef resilience: links with diversity and functional roles of herbivorous fishes on the Great Barrier Reef

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dc.contributor Australian Institute Of Marine Science
dc.contributor University Of Western Australia
dc.contributor Univ Western Australia
dc.contributor Sch Math & Stat
dc.contributor Australian Inst Marine Sci
dc.contributor Australian Institute Of Marine Science (aims) en SWEATMAN, H. CHEAL, A. J. MACNEIL, M. AARON CRIPPS, E. EMSLIE, M. J. JONKER, M. SCHAFFELKE, B. 2017-03-21T01:10:41Z 2013-02-28T06:49:22Z 2013-02-28T06:49:22Z 2019-07-08T02:19:53Z 2013-02-28T06:49:22Z 2017-03-21T01:10:41Z 2017-03-21T01:10:41Z 2019-07-08T02:19:53Z 2010-12-01
dc.identifier 8636 en
dc.identifier.citation Cheal AJ, MacNeil MA, Cripps E, Emslie MJ, Jonker M, Schaffelke B and Sweatman HPA (2010) Coral-macroalgal phase shifts or reef resilience: links with diversity and functional roles of herbivorous fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs. 29: 1005-1015. en
dc.identifier.issn 0722-4028
dc.description Link to abstract/full text - en
dc.description.abstract Changes from coral to macroalgal dominance following disturbances to corals symbolize the global degradation of coral reefs. The development of effective conservation measures depends on understanding the causes of such phase shifts. The prevailing view that coral-macroalgal phase shifts commonly occur due to insufficient grazing by fishes is based on correlation with overfishing and inferences from models and small-scale experiments rather than on long-term quantitative field studies of fish communities at affected and resilient sites. Consequently, the specific characteristics of herbivorous fish communities that most promote reef resilience under natural conditions are not known, though this information is critical for identifying vulnerable ecosystems. In this study, 11 years of field surveys recorded the development of the most persistent coral-macroalgal phase shift (> 7 years) yet observed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This shift followed extensive coral mortality caused by thermal stress (coral bleaching) and damaging storms. Comparisons with two similar reefs that suffered similar disturbances but recovered relatively rapidly demonstrated that the phase shift occurred despite high abundances of one herbivore functional group (scraping/excavating parrotfishes: Labridae). However, the shift was strongly associated with low fish herbivore diversity and low abundances of algal browsers (predominantly Siganidae) and grazers/detritivores (Acanthuridae), suggesting that one or more of these factors underpin reef resilience and so deserve particular protection. Herbivorous fishes are not harvested on the GBR, and the phase shift was not enhanced by unusually high nutrient levels. This shows that unexploited populations of herbivorous fishes cannot ensure reef resilience even under benign conditions and suggests that reefs could lose resilience under relatively low fishing pressure. Predictions of more severe and widespread coral mortality due to global climate change emphasize the need for more effective identification and protection of ecosystem components that are critical for the prevention of coral reef phase shifts.
dc.description.sponsorship We thank all members of the long-term monitoring team, past and present, who helped collect the data used in this study. The manuscript was improved through the comments of F. Christidis, N. A. J. Graham, three anonymous reviewers and the Coral Reefs Topic Editor. This work was funded in part by the Australian Government's Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility.
dc.description.uri en
dc.language English
dc.language en en
dc.relation.ispartof Coral Reefs - pages: 29: 1005-1015 en
dc.relation.ispartof Null
dc.relation.uri en
dc.subject Ecosystems
dc.subject Dynamics
dc.subject Caribbean Reef
dc.subject Community Structure
dc.subject Phase Shift
dc.subject Diversity
dc.subject Coral Reef
dc.subject Disturbance
dc.subject Climate-change
dc.subject Herbivorous Fishes
dc.subject Macroalgae
dc.subject Resilience
dc.subject Marine & Freshwater Biology
dc.subject Impact
dc.subject Regime Shifts
dc.subject Biodiversity
dc.subject Recovery
dc.title Coral-macroalgal phase shifts or reef resilience: links with diversity and functional roles of herbivorous fishes on the Great Barrier Reef
dc.type journal article en
dc.identifier.doi 10.1007/s00338-010-0661-y
dc.identifier.wos WOS:000283940700021

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