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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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The parrotfish Chlorurus spilurus feeding on coral reef substrate covered with turf and macroalgae. Photo: Peter J. Mumby

Puk LD, Cernohorsky N, Marshell A, Dwyer J, Wolfe K, Mumby PJ


Species-specific effects of herbivorous fishes on the establishment of the macroalga Lobophora on coral reefs


Herbivory is a key ecosystem function that influences ecosystem trajectories. On coral reefs, herbivorous fish facilitate a coral-dominated ecosystem state by removing macroalgae, a strong competitor to corals. Puk and co-authors show that recruits of the common brown macroalga Lobophora were more susceptible to grazing by herbivorous fishes than adults. However, the ability of fishes to remove recruits was species-specific and driven by only 3 out of 7 studied species: Acanthurus nigrofuscus, Chlorurus spilurus and Scarus niger. Other abundant species (e.g. Ctenochaetus striatus, Zebrasoma scopas) did not remove significant amounts of the alga. This research thus highlights that species often grouped in one functional group (i.e. grazing herbivorous fishes) can vary significantly in their ability to prevent macroalgal phase shifts.


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