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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 480:73-81 (2013)  -  DOI:

Invasive potential of the coral Tubastraea coccinea in the southwest Atlantic

Pablo Riul1,*, Carlos Henrique Targino2, Lélis A. C. Júnior3, Joel C. Creed3, Paulo A. Horta4, Gabriel C. Costa5

1Departamento de Engenharia e Meio Ambiente, CCAE, Universidade Federal da Paraíba, 58297-000 Rio Tinto, PB, Brazil
2Programa de Pós-graduação em Etnobiologia e Conservação da Natureza, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco,
52171-900, Recife, PE, Brazil
3Departamento de Ecologia, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, 20550-900, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
4Departamento de Botânica, CCB, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 88010-970 Florianópolis, SC, Brazil
5Departamento de Botânica, Ecologia e Zoologia, CB, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, 59072-970, Natal, RN, Brazil

ABSTRACT: The orange cup coral Tubastraea coccinea was the first scleractinean to invade the western Atlantic. The species occurs throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea and has now established itself in the southwest Atlantic along the Brazilian coast. T. coccinea modifies native benthic communities, competes with an endemic coral species and demonstrates widespread invasive potential. We used species distribution modeling (SDM) to predict climatically suitable habitats for T. coccinea along the coastline of the southwestern Atlantic and identify the extent of the putative effects of this species on the native coral Mussismilia hispida by estimating areas of potential overlap between these species. The resulting SDMs predicted a large area of climatically suitable habitat available for invasion by T. coccinea and also predicted widespread occurrence of the endemic M. hispida along the Brazilian coast. The prediction of the T. coccinea distribution model suggests that suitable environmental conditions for the species occur throughout most of the littoral zone, including most of Brazil’s marine protected areas. The overlap of the SDMs of M. hispida and T. coccinea revealed a large area with high habitat suitability for both species. Considering the invasive potential of T. coccinea and its ecological consequences, we concluded that this alien species could change the benthic communities of most of the shallow Brazilian coast and, as the invasive and native coral species have been shown to be antagonistic, T. coccinea represents a serious threat to M. hispida throughout most of its potential geographical distribution.

KEY WORDS: Bio-Oracle · Coral reefs · Invasion Ecology · Southwestern Atlantic · Species distribution modeling

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Cite this article as: Riul P, Targino CH, Júnior LAC, Creed JC, Horta PA, Costa GC (2013) Invasive potential of the coral Tubastraea coccinea in the southwest Atlantic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 480:73-81.

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