Coral Reefs

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 199–209

Comparisons of N- and P-limited productivity between high granitic islands versus low carbonate atolls in the Seychelles Archipelago: a test of the relative-dominance paradigm


  • M. M. Littler
    • Department of BotanyNational Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • D. S. Littler
    • Department of BotanyNational Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • E. A. Titlyanov
    • Institute of Marine Biology, Far East BranchUSSR Academy of Sciences

DOI: 10.1007/BF00336775

Cite this article as:
Littler, M.M., Littler, D.S. & Titlyanov, E.A. Coral Reefs (1991) 10: 199. doi:10.1007/BF00336775


This exploratory study suggests that different geological systems (carbonate vs. granitic) in tropical waters have contrasting patterns of photosynthetic nutrient limitation correlated with inorganic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability. Physiological assays for 21 predominant macrophyte species show that inorganic N and P are much less limiting to photosynthesis on granitic islands than is the case on carbonate islands and that, of the two, P is more likely to limit production in carbonate-rich tropical waters. Patterns of nutrient limitation in turn are reflected by differences in the relative dominance of functional groups of sessile, epilithic, photosynthetic organisms. Surveys at 33 sites on 10 islands revealed that nearshore waters on high granitic islands tend to be characterized by large and species-rich standing stocks of frondose macroalgae, often dominated by Sargassum spp., whereas waters around low carbonate islands tend to be dominated by hermatypic corals. Macrophyte tissue and seawater analyses also indicate a possible trend toward higher levels of N and P in granitic vs. carbonate islands. Pagode Island, a low carbonate island influenced by guano from seabird colonies, is an exception, with few corals, relatively high levels of tissue and seawater N and P, and a predominance of macroalgae (mostly Dictyosphaeria cavernosa).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991