Coral Reefs

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 127–133 | Cite as

Local variation in herbivore feeding activity on an inshore reef of the Great Barrier Reef

  • C. Cvitanovic
  • D. R. BellwoodEmail author


Threats to coral reefs may be manifested through an increase in macroalgae. Across the globe, phase-shifts from coral to macroalgal dominance have been reported from the Caribbean, Indian and Pacific Oceans. While the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is in relatively good condition, inshore reefs may exhibit over 50% macroalgal cover. However, our understanding of the processes preventing the macroalgal expansion remains uncertain. Using a remote video bioassay approach, this study quantified herbivory in three bays along the leeward margin of Orpheus Island. Despite significant with-in bay variation in herbivory there was no detectable statistical difference in the rates of herbivory among bays. Furthermore, of the 45 herbivore species recorded from the island, only three played a significant role in bioassay removal, Siganus canaliculatus, Siganus javus and Kyphosus vaigiensis, with only one species predominating in each bay. Reefs of the GBR may therefore be more vulnerable than previously thought, with the removal of macroalgae depending on just a few species, which exhibit considerable spatial variability in their feeding behaviour.


Herbivory Macroalgae Kyphosus vaigiensis Bioassay Spatial variation Phase-shifts Coral reef 



We thank C. A. Ryen, D. J. Coker, R. M. Bonaldo and the staff of Orpheus Island Research Station for invaluable field assistance; A. Gonzalez-Cabello, A. S. Hoey and S. Wismer for statistical advice; R. M. Bonaldo, J. L. Johansen, K. A. Steward, S. Wismer and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. This study was supported by the Australian Research Council, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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