Responses of algal communities to gradients in herbivore biomass and water quality in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands
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- Albert, S., Udy, J. & Tibbetts, I.R. Coral Reefs (2008) 27: 73. doi:10.1007/s00338-007-0292-0
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Settlement tiles were used to characterise and quantify coral reef associated algal communities along water quality and herbivory gradients from terrestrial influenced near shore sites to oceanic passage sites in Marovo Lagoon, the Solomon Islands. After 6 months, settlement tile communities from inshore reefs were dominated by high biomass algal turfs (filamentous algae and cyanobacteria) whereas tiles located on offshore reefs were characterised by a mixed low biomass community of calcareous crustose algae, fleshy crustose algae and bare tile. The exclusion of macrograzers, via caging of tiles, on the outer reef sites resulted in the development of an algal turf community similar to that observed on inshore reefs. Caging on the inshore reef tiles had a limited impact on community composition or biomass. Water quality and herbivorous fish biomass were quantified at each site to elucidate factors that might influence algal community structure across the lagoon. Herbivore biomass was the dominant driver of algal community structure. Algal biomass on the other hand was controlled by both herbivory and water quality (particularly dissolved nutrients). This study demonstrates that algal communities on settlement tiles are an indicator capable of integrating the impacts of water quality and herbivory over a small spatial scale (kilometres) and short temporal scale (months), where other environmental drivers (current, light, regional variability) are constant.