Mass mortality of macrobenthic communities in the lagoon of Hikueru atoll (French Polynesia)
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Epibenthic macrofauna communities (corals, molluscs, echinoderms, and macroalgae) were investigated at Hikueru Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago. The very low diversity and abundance that we observed (1 coral genus, and 2 mollusc, 1 echinoderm, and 17 macroalgal species) is likely to be the result of a mass mortality event that occurred 18 months earlier. Hydrological surveys suggest that this high mortality was the result of a major dystrophic crisis. Other atoll lagoons in the Tuamotu Archipelago have also been affected by high mortalities in the past, but Hikueru appears to have been the most frequently and intensely affected. The present study confirms that mass mortalities associated with phytoplankton blooms may be one of the major disturbances affecting coral reef ecosystems.
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