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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 437:89-102 (2011)  -  DOI:

Coral responses to macroalgal reduction and fisheries closure on Caribbean patch reefs

T. R. McClanahan1,*, B. E. Huntington2, B. Cokos1

1Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine Programs, Bronx, New York 10460, USA
2Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida 33149, USA

ABSTRACT: To determine the effects of algal reduction and fisheries closure, a crossed experimental design was undertaken over a 516 d period on the remote patch reefs of Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize. We investigated (1) the effects on health, growth, and survivorship of 2 transplanted coral species, Porites asteroides and Siderastrea siderea, and (2) the changes in the benthic and fish communities. Algal reduction (98% reduction by physical removal kept low by monthly removal) increased the abundance of all fish and slightly elevated herbivore bite rates. P. asteroides showed a temporal response to environmental conditions opposite of predictions, with higher bleaching and mortality in the unfished reefs cleared of algae. This may be due to reduced water flow at these sites as the growth rate of P. asteroides was positively related to water flow (R2 = 0.35, p = 0.04). S. siderea growth showed no relationship with water flow and bleached slightly more in the control reefs. Nevertheless, there were no patterns in mortality, and growth rates were twice as high in the fished than unfished reefs for this species. This reef-scale study contrasts with results of small-scale experiments that found rapid, indirect coral mortality from erect algae. Rather, our results suggest that environmental conditions, notably reef location in relation to water flow, can be a considerably stronger factor influencing coral health than erect algae.

KEY WORDS: Marine reserve · Fishing effects · Coral growth · Algal–coral interactions · Bleaching · Management · Phase shifts

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Cite this article as: McClanahan TR, Huntington BE, Cokos B (2011) Coral responses to macroalgal reduction and fisheries closure on Caribbean patch reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 437:89-102.

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