Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation

Gonzalez-Rivero, Manuel, Bozec, Yves-Marie, Chollett, Iliana, Ferrari, Renata, Schonberg, Christine H. L. and Mumby, Peter J. (2016) Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation. Oecologia, 181 1: 1-13. doi:10.1007/s00442-015-3541-x

Author Gonzalez-Rivero, Manuel
Bozec, Yves-Marie
Chollett, Iliana
Ferrari, Renata
Schonberg, Christine H. L.
Mumby, Peter J.
Title Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation
Journal name Oecologia   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0029-8549
Publication date 2016-01-11
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00442-015-3541-x
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 181
Issue 1
Start page 1
End page 13
Total pages 13
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher Springer
Language eng
Subject 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Abstract Disturbance releases space and allows the growth of opportunistic species, excluded by the old stands, with a potential to alter community dynamics. In coral reefs, abundances of fast-growing, and disturbance-tolerant sponges are expected to increase and dominate as space becomes available following acute coral mortality events. Yet, an increase in abundance of these opportunistic species has been reported in only a few studies, suggesting certain mechanisms may be acting to regulate sponge populations. To gain insights into mechanisms of population control, we simulated the dynamics of the common reef-excavating sponge Cliona tenuis in the Caribbean using an individual-based model. An orthogonal hypothesis testing approach was used, where four candidate mechanisms—algal competition, stock-recruitment limitation, whole and partial mortality—were incorporated sequentially into the model and the results were tested against independent field observations taken over a decade in Belize, Central America. We found that releasing space after coral mortality can promote C. tenuis outbreaks, but such outbreaks can be curtailed by macroalgal competition. The asymmetrical competitive superiority of macroalgae, given by their capacity to pre-empt space and outcompete with the sponge in a size-dependant fashion, supports their capacity to steal the opportunity from other opportunists. While multiple system stages can be expected in coral reefs following intense perturbation macroalgae may prevent the growth of other space-occupiers, such as bioeroding sponges, under low grazing pressure.
Keyword Disturbance
Marine ecosystems
Population regulation
Transient ecosystems
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

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