Hot moments in spawning aggregations: implications for ecosystem-scale nutrient cycling
- 440 Downloads
Biogeochemical hot moments occur when a temporary increase in availability of one or more limiting reactants results in elevated rates of biogeochemical reactions. Many marine fish form transient spawning aggregations, temporarily increasing their local abundance and thus nutrients supplied via excretion at the aggregation site. In this way, nutrients released by aggregating fish could create a biogeochemical hot moment. Using a combination of empirical and modeling approaches, we estimate nitrogen and phosphorus supplied by aggregating Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus). Data suggest aggregating grouper supply up to an order-of-magnitude more nitrogen and phosphorus than daily consumer-derived nutrient supply on coral reefs without aggregating fish. Comparing current and historic aggregation-level excretion estimates shows that overfishing reduced nutrients supplied by aggregating fish by up to 87 %. Our study illustrates a previously unrecognized ecosystem viewpoint regarding fish spawning aggregations and provides an additional perspective on the repercussions of their overexploitation.
KeywordsSpawning aggregation Nitrogen Phosphorus Nassau grouper Epinephelus striatus Biogeochemical hot moments
We thank the volunteers and businesses that provided logistic support during the collection of data on the grouper aggregation part of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation Grouper Moon Project, and Friends of the Environment for logistical support during creation of the N and P excretion models. We also thank the comments of the anonymous reviewers whose inputs greatly improved this manuscript. This study was funded by Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, Lenfest Ocean Program, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration International Coral Reef Conservation Program (Grant NA04-NOS 4630287), J. Edward Mahoney Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship (J.E.A), National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (J.E.A), and National Science Foundation (Biological Oceanography 1259306 and 0746164).
- Allgeier, JE, Layman, CA, Mumby, PJ, Rosemond, AD (2014) Consistent nutrient storage and supply mediated by diverse fish communities in coral reef ecosystems. Glob Chang Biol [doi: 10.1111/gcb.12566]
- Domeier ML, Colin PL (1997) Tropical reef fish spawning aggregations: defined and reviewed. Bull Mar Sci 60:698–726Google Scholar
- Heppell SA, Semmens BX, Archer SK, Pattengill-Semmens CV, Bush PG, McCoy CM, Heppell SS, Johnson BC (2012) Documenting recovery of a spawning aggregation through size frequency analysis from underwater laser calipers measurements. Biol Conserv 155(119):127Google Scholar
- Meyer JL, Schultz ET, Helfman GS (1983) Fish schools - an asset to corals. Science 220:1047 1049Google Scholar
- Powell GVN, Kenworthy JW, Fourqurean JW (1989) Experimental evidence for nutrient limitation of seagrass growth in a tropical estuary with restricted circulation. Bull Mar Sci 44:324–340Google Scholar
- Sadovy Y (1997) The case of the disappearing grouper: Epinephelus striatus the Nassau grouper, in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Proceedings of the Forty-Fifth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute 45:5–22Google Scholar
- Sadovy Y, Eklund A-M (1999) Synopsis of biological data on the Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus (Bloch, 1792), and the Jewfish, E. itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822) NOAA Technical Report NMFS 146 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fisheries synopsis 157, FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
- Schreck CB, Moyle PB (eds) (1990) Methods for fish biology. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MLGoogle Scholar
- Whaylen L, Bush P, Johnson B, Luke KE, Mccoy C, Heppell S, Semmens B, Boardman M (2006) Aggregation dynamics and lessons learned from five years of monitoring at a Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) spawning aggregation in Little Cayman, Cayman Islands, BWI. Proceedings of the 59th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. Fort Pierce Florida, Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries InstituteGoogle Scholar