Regional-scale variation in the distribution and abundance of farming damselfishes on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Type
Article

Authors
Emslie, Michael J.
Logan, Murray
Ceccarelli, Daniela M.
Cheal, Alistair J.
Hoey, Andrew
Miller, Ian R.
Sweatman, Hugh P A

KAUST Department
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)

Online Publication Date
2012-03-15

Print Publication Date
2012-06

Date
2012-03-15

Abstract
Territorial damselfishes that manipulate ("farm") the algae in their territories can have a marked effect on benthic community structure and may influence coral recovery following disturbances. Despite the numerical dominance of farming species on many reefs, the importance of their grazing activities is often overlooked, with most studies only examining their roles over restricted spatial and temporal scales. We used the results of field surveys covering 9.5° of latitude of the Great Barrier Reef to describe the distribution, abundance and temporal dynamics of farmer communities. Redundancy analysis revealed unique subregional assemblages of farming species that were shaped by the combined effects of shelf position and, to a lesser extent, by latitude. These spatial patterns were largely stable through time, except when major disturbances altered the benthic community. Such disturbances affected the functional guilds of farmers in different ways. Since different guilds of farmers modify benthic community structure and affect survival of juvenile corals in different ways, these results have important implications for coral recovery following disturbances. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

Citation
Emslie, M. J., Logan, M., Ceccarelli, D. M., Cheal, A. J., Hoey, A. S., Miller, I., & Sweatman, H. P. A. (2012). Regional-scale variation in the distribution and abundance of farming damselfishes on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology, 159(6), 1293–1304. doi:10.1007/s00227-012-1910-0

Publisher
Springer Nature

Journal
Marine Biology

DOI
10.1007/s00227-012-1910-0

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