Characterizing the ecological trade-offs throughout the early ontogeny of coral recruitment

Doropoulos, Christopher, Roff, George, Bozec, Yves-Marie, Zupan, Mirta, Werminghausen, Johanna and Mumby, Peter J. (2016) Characterizing the ecological trade-offs throughout the early ontogeny of coral recruitment. Ecological Monographs, 86 1: 20-44. doi:10.1890/15-0668.1

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Author Doropoulos, Christopher
Roff, George
Bozec, Yves-Marie
Zupan, Mirta
Werminghausen, Johanna
Mumby, Peter J.
Title Characterizing the ecological trade-offs throughout the early ontogeny of coral recruitment
Journal name Ecological Monographs   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1557-7015
Publication date 2016-02-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1890/15-0668.1
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 86
Issue 1
Start page 20
End page 44
Total pages 25
Place of publication Hoboken, NJ, United States
Publisher John Wiley & Sons
Language eng
Subject 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Abstract Drivers of recruitment in sessile marine organisms are often poorly understood, due to the rapidly changing requirements experienced during early ontogeny. The complex suite of physical, biological, and ecological interactions beginning at larval settlement involves a series of trade-offs that influence recruitment success. For example, while cryptic settlement within complex microhabitats is a commonly observed phenomenon in sessile marine organisms, it is unclear whether trade-offs between competition in cryptic refuges and predation on exposed surfaces leads to higher recruitment.To explore the trade-offs during the early ontogeny of scleractinian corals, we combined field observations with laboratory and field experiments to develop a mechanistic understanding of coral recruitment success. Multiple experiments conducted over 15 months in Palau (Micronesia) allowed a mechanistic approach to study the individual factors involved in recruitment: settlement behavior, growth, competition, and predation, as functions of microhabitat and ontogeny. We finally developed and tested a predictive recruitment model with the broader aim of testing whether our empirical insights explained patterns of coral recruitment and quantifying the relative importance of each trade-off.Coral settlement was higher in crevices than exposed microhabitats, but post-settlement bottlenecks differed markedly in the presence (uncaged) and absence (caged) of predators. Incidental predation by herbivores on exposed surfaces at early post-settlement (<3 mm) stages and targeted predation by corallivores at late post-settlement (3–10 mm) stages exceeded competition in crevices as major drivers of mortality. In contrast, when fish were excluded, competition with macroalgae and heterotrophic invertebrates intensified mortality, particularly in crevices. As a result, post-settlement trade-offs were reversed, and recruitment was more than twofold higher on exposed surfaces than crevices. Once post-settlement bottlenecks were overcome, survival was higher on exposed surfaces regardless of fish exclusion. However, maximum recruitment occurred in crevices of uncaged treatments, being ninefold higher than caged treatments. Overall, we characterize recruitment success throughout the earliest life-history stages of corals and uncover some intriguing trade-offs between growth, competition and predation, highlighting how these change and even reverse during ontogeny and under alternate disturbance regimes.
Keyword Competition
Individual-based model
Recruitment niche
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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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 17 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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