Productivity and abundance of large sponge populations on Flinders Reef flats, Coral Sea
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Large populations of flattened sponges with cyanobacterial symbionts were observed on the shallow reef-flats of the Flinders Reefs, Coral Sea. Estimates of these populations indicated as many as 60 individuals with a total wet biomass of 1.2 kg per m2 in some areas. Along a metre wide transect across 1.3 km of reef flat the population was estimated at 530 kg wet weight sponge (mean 411 g m-2). The four prominent species had instantaneous P/R ratios between 1.3 and 1.8 at optimum light such that photosynthetic productivity was calculated to provide between 61 and 80% of sponge energy requirements in summer and 48 to 64% in winter. While such sponge beds are a prominent feature of these reefs, they appear to contribute less than 10% of gross reef-flat productivity.
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