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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Foundation species such as reef-building corals and canopy-forming brown algae face competition with low-lying turf algae on tropical and temperate reefs. Photos: Alan Pinder & Robert Scheibling

O’Brien JM, Scheibling RE


Turf wars: competition between foundation and turf-forming species on temperate and tropical reefs and its role in regime shifts

Competition is thought to mediate or maintain regime shifts on shallow reefs in which foundation species such as corals and canopy-forming algae are replaced by assemblages of turf-forming algae. To disentangle evidence of competitive interactions from other processes that may contribute to these shifts, O'Brien and Scheibling synthesized competition experiments from temperate and tropical reefs. This global meta-analysis indicates established corals and canopy algae generally suppress turf algae, but that turf algae limit establishment of canopy algae recruits and expansion of coral colonies. Therefore, while reefs with high coral or canopy cover may be resistant to proliferation of turf algae, competition from turf algae likely maintains regime shifts by inhibiting recovery of foundation species when disturbances or chronic stress enable turf algae to establish.


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