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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 263:159-167 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps263159

Demise of monocultural algal farms by exclusion of territorial damselfish

Hiroki Hata*, Makoto Kato

Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan

ABSTRACT: Resident herbivorous damselfishes exclude other herbivores from their territories and maintain dense stands of filamentous algae as algal farms. The damselfish Stegastes nigricans occupies coral reefs in the Okinawa Islands, southern Japan, and is unique in maintaining monocultural algal farms of the filamentous rhodophyte Polysiphonia sp. One of the mechanisms by which S. nigricans maintains these unique algal farms is by selective weeding of indigestible algae. This study tested the hypothesis that, were it not for management by S. nigricans, monocultures would be taken over by algal succession, even without grazing by other herbivores. We set up S. nigricans-exclusion cages inside and grazer-exclusion cages outside the territories of S. nigricans, and monitored algal succession. After exclusion of S. nigricans, the Polysiphonia sp. monoculture deteriorated rapidly and algal biomass decreased simultaneously. Filamentous rhodophytes replaced Polysiphonia sp. within 2 wk, and were in turn displaced by corticated macrophytes and calcareous algae (which are usually selectively weeded by S. nigricans). Monocultures of Polysiphonia sp. did not appear in the grazer-exclusion cages; pioneer Polysiphonia sp. colonized the areas just after caging, but thereafter was replaced by other filamentous rhodophytes, corticated macrophytes, and calcareous algae. Our experiments demonstrated that S. nigricans maintained monocultures and high biomass of palatable pioneer Polysiphonia sp. against algal succession by intensive farm-management, involving selective weeding.

KEY WORDS: Algal farm management · Monoculture · Weeding · Stegastes nigricans · Polysiphonia sp. · Algal succession · Cage experiment

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