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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 639:91-106 (2020)  -  DOI:

Dynamics of carbonate sediment production by Halimeda: implications for reef carbonate budgets

Carolina Castro-Sanguino1,*, Yves-Marie Bozec1, Peter J. Mumby1

1Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Reef carbonate production and sediment generation are key processes for coral reef development and shoreline protection. The calcified green alga Halimeda is a major contributor of calcareous sediments, but rates of production and herbivory upon Halimeda are driven by biotic and environmental factors. Consequently, estimating rates of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) production and transformation into sediment requires the integration of Halimeda gains and losses across habitats and seasons, which is rarely considered in carbonate budgets. Using seasonal rates of recruitment, growth, senescence and herbivory derived from observations and manipulative experiments, we developed an individual-based model to quantify the annual cycle of Halimeda carbonate and sediment production at Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef. Halimeda population dynamics were simulated both within and outside branching Acropora canopies, which provide refuge from herbivory. Shelter from herbivory allowed larger Halimeda thalli to grow, leading to higher rates of carbonate accumulation (3.9 and 0.9 kg CaCO3 m-2 yr-1 within and outside Acropora canopies, respectively) and sediment production (2.5 versus 1.0 kg CaCO3 m-2 yr-1, respectively). Overall, 37% of the annual carbonate production was transformed into sediments through senescence (84%) and fish herbivory (16%), with important variations among seasons and habitats. Our model underlines that algal rates of carbonate production are likely to be underestimated if herbivory is not integrated into the carbonate budget, and reveals an important indirect pathway by which structurally complex coral habitats contribute to reef carbonate budgets, suggesting that coral losses due to climate change may lead to further declines in reef sediment production.

KEY WORDS: Reef sediment budgets · Algal demographic rates · Calcareous macroalgae · Herbivory

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Cite this article as: Castro-Sanguino C, Bozec YM, Mumby PJ (2020) Dynamics of carbonate sediment production by Halimeda: implications for reef carbonate budgets. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 639:91-106.

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