Grazing pressure of herbivorous coral reef fishes on low coral-cover reefs

Michelle J. Paddack, Robert K. Cowen, Su Sponaugle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The impact of grazing by herbivorous fishes (Acanthuridae, Scaridae, and Pomacentridae) on low coral-cover reefs was assessed by measuring rates of benthic algal production and consumption on inshore and offshore reefs in the upper Florida Keys. Algal production rates, determined in situ with caged and uncaged experimental plates, were low (mean 1.05 g C m-2 day -1) and similar among reef types. Algal consumption rates were estimated using two different models, a detailed model incorporating fish bite rates and algal yield-per-bite for one species extrapolated to a guild-wide value, and a general regression relating fish biomass to algal consumption. Algal consumption differed among reef types: a majority of algal production was consumed on offshore reefs (55-100%), whereas consumption on inshore patch reefs was 31-51%. Spatial variation in algal consumption was driven by differences in herbivorous fish species composition, density, and size-structure among reef types. Algal consumption rates also varied temporally due to seasonal declines in bite rates and intermittent presence of large-bodied, vagile, schooling species. Spatial coherence of benthic community structure and temporal stability of algal turf over 3 years suggests that grazing intensity is currently sufficient to limit further spread of macroalgal cover on these low coral-cover reefs, but not to exclude it from the system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-472
Number of pages12
JournalCoral Reefs
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2006

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grazing pressure
coral reefs
coral reef
corals
reefs
coral
reef
grazing
fish
Acanthuridae
Scaridae
Pomacentridae
grazing intensity
size structure
lawns and turf
consumption
guild
benthos
spatial variation
rate

Keywords

  • Algal consumption
  • Algal production
  • Coral reef
  • Herbivory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

Cite this

Grazing pressure of herbivorous coral reef fishes on low coral-cover reefs. / Paddack, Michelle J.; Cowen, Robert K.; Sponaugle, Su.

In: Coral Reefs, Vol. 25, No. 3, 01.08.2006, p. 461-472.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Paddack, Michelle J. ; Cowen, Robert K. ; Sponaugle, Su. / Grazing pressure of herbivorous coral reef fishes on low coral-cover reefs. In: Coral Reefs. 2006 ; Vol. 25, No. 3. pp. 461-472.
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