, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 189-197

Sub-rubble communities of Curaçao and Bonaire coral reefs

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Abstract

The distribution and abundance of sessile organisms under coral rubble has been studied at Bonaire and Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Species richness under rubble is extremely high with at least 367 species of which sponges, tunicates and bryozoans are the most important. Shallow sub-rubble communities can be considered refuges as the majority of these species are crypt-obligate. Sub-rubble communities may also have a preserve function for sponges, but do not harbour enough corals to ensure a quick coral recolonization of the reef surface after a major disaster. Cryptic community composition is affected by depth and pollution, and differs substantially between the two neighbouring islands, possibly as a result of different bottom characteristics. Biomass of the sub-rubble communities may contribute considerably to total reef biomass. Diversity varies inversely with increased depth and increased rubble size, possibly indicating abiotic control (e.g. physical disturbance by wave action and reef slope substrate collapse).