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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 460 - Feature article
Competition between corals and algae is common on healthy reefs, but certain types of algae (e.g. turf algae, inset) are more harmful to corals than others (CCA, main photo), and these negative effects can be exacerbated by human activities.  Photo: Katie Barott

Barott KL, Williams GJ, Vermeij MJA, Harris J, Smith JE, Rohwer FL, Sandin SA


Natural history of coral–algae competition across a gradient of human activity in the Line Islands


Benthic algae are outcompeting corals on many reefs around the world. Barott and co-workers investigated competition between corals and various functional groups of algae on reefs in a remote Pacific archipelago with nearly pristine to heavily fished habitats. Corals were superior competitors against turf algae on near-pristine reefs, but on fished reefs algae gained an advantage. This supports the notion that anthropogenic effects alter the mechanisms of coral–algal competition, making corals less able to resist competitive encroachment, and initiating a transition towards algal dominance.


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