Effects of live coral, epilithic algal communities and substrate type on algal recruitment
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The recruitment of algae is a critical process during algal colonization and invasions, including coralto- algal phase shifts. Although algae are widely assumed to colonize and kill corals, there is very little known about the recruitment dynamics of coral reef algae. This study tested the ability of two dominant macroalgae (Fucales including Sargassum spp. and Lobophora variegata) to settle and grow on healthy coral tissue. The study also explored the effects of interactions with prior occupants, and of abiotic substrate properties (texture, and ceramic and carbonate material). The results indicate that healthy corals were able to prevent attachment or survival of recruits of these macroalgae. This is a significant point, since it suggests that the replacement of corals by algae may often require prior stress or death in the coral tissue. Pre-conditioning of plates at different sites had some effects, but these were relatively minor, whereas there was considerable variation within sites. Some of this variation appeared to be related to the amount of turf algae or crustose coralline algae on the plates. Recruitment was generally, but not always, higher on plates with rougher texture. Overall, this preliminary exploration indicates considerable potential for variability in outcomes of algal colonization, with implications for the dynamics of algal invasions. In particular, the results do not support suggestions that planktonic algal propagules can directly settle on and colonize healthy coral tissue.
Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology)