Positive association between epiphytes and competitiveness of the brown algal genus Lobophora against corals

Author(s): Eich, A., Ford., A.K., Nugues, M.M., et.al.
In: PeerJ. 2019 Feb 8;7:e6380. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6380. eCollection 2019
Year: 2019
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Marine
Link to centre authors: Ford, Amanda
Full reference: Eich, A., Ford., A.K., Nugues, M.M., et.al. 2019. Positive association between epiphytes and competitiveness of the brown algal genus Lobophora against corals. PeerJ. 2019 Feb 8;7:e6380. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6380. eCollection 2019

Summary

Observations of coral-algal competition can provide valuable information about the state of coral reef ecosystems. Here, we report contact rates and apparent competition states for six shallow lagoonal reefs in Fiji. A total of 81.4% of examined coral perimeters were found to be in contact with algae, with turf algae (54.7%) and macroalgae of the genus Lobophora (16.8%) representing the most frequently observed contacts. Turf algae competitiveness was low, with 21.8% of coral-turf contacts being won by the algae (i.e. overgrowth or bleaching of coral tissue). In contrast, Lobophora competitiveness against corals was high, with 62.5% of contacts being won by the alga.

The presence of epiphytic algae on Lobophora was associated with significantly greater algal competitiveness against corals, with 75.8% and 21.1% of interactions recorded as algal wins in the presence and absence of epiphytes, respectively. Sedimentation rate, herbivorous fish biomass, and coral colony size did not have a significant effect on Lobophora-coral interactions. This research indicates a novel and important role of epiphytes in driving the outcome of coral-algal contacts.

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