A phase shift from macroalgal to coral dominance in the Mediterranean
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KeywordsSponge Coral Reef Macroalgae Trophic Group Coral Community
Whilst high cover of O. patagonica has been recorded on artificial habitats, cover on natural substrata is generally sparse (<15 %, Fine et al. 2001; Sartoretto et al. 2008; Coma et al. 2011). It is unclear how O. patagonica outcompetes algae and other invertebrates. Densities at Torre Pirulico are the highest ever reported. This is a coral community dominated by O. patagonica.
Our finding of a persistent phase shift from macroalgal to coral dominance in the Mediterranean contrasts with the reported trend in many coral reef ecosystems. Macroalgae are important primary producers in temperate coastal ecosystems and this change in the dominant trophic group may affect ecosystem function.
We are grateful to Laura Navarro for field assistance. Support has been provided by MCI project CGL2010-18466, CoCoNet (FP7 Grant-Agreement:287844) and the Marine-Biogeochemistry and Global-Change-Research group from Generalitat de Catalunya.