The role of surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) in maintaining algal turf biomass on coral reefs

Marshell, Alyssa and Mumby, Peter J. (2015) The role of surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) in maintaining algal turf biomass on coral reefs. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 473 152-160. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2015.09.002

Author Marshell, Alyssa
Mumby, Peter J.
Title The role of surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) in maintaining algal turf biomass on coral reefs
Journal name Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0981
Publication date 2015-12-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jembe.2015.09.002
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 473
Start page 152
End page 160
Total pages 9
Place of publication Amsterdam, Netherlands
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Coral reefs are one of the most highly productive marine ecosystems, with a strong connection between herbivores and the production of benthic algae. The epilithic algal matrix (EAM) is a major source of primary production on coral reefs, and it is one of the dominant benthic microhabitats, covering up to 80% of reef flats and back reefs and up to 70% of reef slopes on outer-shelf sites of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Although herbivorous surgeonfish (Acanthuridae) are dominant members of most reef fish assemblages, there is a lack of quantitative information on their grazing impact, particularly those that feed upon the EAM in the Indo-Pacific. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the role of surgeonfish in maintaining algal turf biomass on coral reefs. Spatial patterns of EAM productivity, and herbivorous fish biomass and grazing intensity were quantified at different depths (deep vs. shallow) and exposures (windward vs. leeward) of reef slope environments of Heron Island, southern Great Barrier Reef. Surgeonfish were the numerically-dominant EAM grazing fish family, and to identify the daily impact of surgeonfish species on the EAM, data on their biomass (g m− 2) and grazing intensity (total bites m− 2 day− 1) were combined with EAM productivity estimates (g C m− 2 day− 1). EAM productivity was greatest in windward and shallow sites, and herbivorous fish biomass mirrored this pattern. Yet, there was no difference in the EAM standing crop or grazing intensity among habitats. In the most productive habitat (windward-shallow), grazer/detritivore surgeonfish species accounted for 74% of the total herbivore biomass (g m− 2), took 51% of the total bites (m− 2 day− 1), and removed an estimated 73% of daily EAM productivity (g C m− 2 day− 1). This study quantifies the role of surgeonfish in maintaining EAM biomass, and highlights their possible contribution to preventing shifts from coral- to algal-dominance following disturbance.
Keyword Surgeonfish
Coral reefs
Epilithic algal matrix
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
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