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Title: Sediment suppresses herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient
Contributor(s): Goatley, Christopher  (author)orcid ; Bellwood, David R (author)
Publication Date: 2012
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0770Open Access Link
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Abstract: Sediments are a ubiquitous feature of all coral reefs, yet our understanding of how they affect complex ecological processes on coral reefs is limited. Sediment in algal turfs has been shown to suppress herbivory by coral reef fishes on high-sediment, low-herbivory reef flats. Here, we investigate the role of sediment in suppressing herbivory across a depth gradient (reef base, crest and flat) by observing fish feeding following benthic sediment reductions. We found that sediment suppresses herbivory across all reef zones. Even slight reductions on the reef crest, which has 35 times less sediment than the reef flat, resulted in over 1800 more herbivore bites (h̄¹ m̄²). The Acanthuridae (surgeonfishes) were responsible for over 80 per cent of all bites observed, and on the reef crest and flat took over 1500 more bites (h̄¹ m̄²) when sediment load was reduced. These findings highlight the role of natural sediment loads in shaping coral reef herbivory and suggest that changes in benthic sediment loads could directly impair reef resilience.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Biology Letters, 8(6), p. 1016-1018
Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing
Place of Publication: United Kingdom
ISSN: 1744-9561
Field of Research (FOR): 050102 Ecosystem Function
060801 Animal Behaviour
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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Appears in Collections:Journal Article
School of Environmental and Rural Science

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