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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Blue parrotfish Scarus coeruleus cropping algae on a reef. Photo: T. C. Adam

Adam TC, Burkepile DE, Ruttenberg BI, Paddack MJ


Herbivory and the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs: knowledge gaps and implications for management


Over the last several decades, corals have declined and algae have increased on many Caribbean reefs. Macroalgae appear to hamper the recovery of corals, prompting calls for the protection of herbivorous fishes. Nevertheless, evidence that an increase in herbivory promotes coral recovery has been mixed. Adam and coauthors review the factors that modify the relationships among herbivores, algae, and corals. They identify several important knowledge gaps and conclude that a suite of chronic drivers, including increasing temperature, declining water quality, and the loss of key herbivores interact in complex ways to limit coral recovery on Caribbean reefs. Reversing current trends will require management strategies that address multiple stressors in addition to impacts of fisheries on herbivore assemblages.


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