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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tim McClanahan,
Professor Nick Polunin
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The consequences of macroalgal overgrowth on reef fishes and means to reverse this condition have been little explored. An experimental reduction of macroalgae was conducted at a site in the Watamu Marine National Park in Kenya, where a documented increase in macroalgal cover has occurred over the last nine years. In four experimental 10 m by 10 m plots, macroalgae were greatly reduced (fleshy algal cover reduced by 84%) by scrubbing and shearing, while four similar plots acted as controls. The numerical abundance in all fish groups except wrasses and macroalgal-feeding parrotfishes (species in the genera Calotomus and Leptoscarus) increased in experimental algal reduction plots. Algal (Sargassum) and seagrass (Thalassia) assays, susceptible to scraping and excavating parrotfishes, were bitten more frequently in the algal reduction plots one month after the manipulation. Further, surgeonfish (Acanthurus leucosternon and A. nigrofuscus) foraging intensity increased in these algal reduction plots. The abundance of triggerfishes increased significantly in experimental plots relative to control plots, but densities remained low, and an index of sea urchin predation using tethered juvenile and adult Echinometra mathaei showed no differences between treatments following macroalgal reduction. Dominance of reefs by macrofleshy algae appears to reduce the abundance of fishes, mostly herbivores and their rates of herbivory, but also other groups such as predators of invertebrates (triggerfishes, butterflyfishes and angelfishes).
Author(s): McClanahan TR, Hendrick V, Rodrigues MJ, Polunin NVC
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Coral Reefs
Print publication date: 23/09/1999
ISSN (print): 0722-4028
ISSN (electronic): 1432-0975
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