Advertisement

Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 98, Issue 4, pp 1035–1045 | Cite as

Coral loss and fish guild stability on a Caribbean coral reef: 1974–2000

  • William S. AlevizonEmail author
  • James W. Porter
Article

Abstract

Data on reef substrate composition and fish guild structure was extracted from filmed underwater surveys conducted in 1974 and 2000 at a coral reef in the Florida Keys. During the course of this 26-year interval the reef underwent a dramatic (>75 %) loss of stony coral cover, particularly acroporids, accompanied by significant increases in turf algae, crustose-coralline algae, octocorals, and macroalgae. At the same time, marked changes occurred in the structure of a guild of large herbivorous reef fishes. Total abundance declined, and the relative abundance of constituent species and functional groups changed as well. In contrast, we recorded no change in any measure of structural stability in either of two carnivorous fish guilds (lutjanids, haemulids) that feed by night in off-reef habitats. These results are generally consistent with the hypothesis that coral loss differentially impacts functionally dissimilar groups of fishes, according to dependency on reef substrates for food and/or shelter. The persistence of sizeable herbivore populations along with the relatively low (<16 %) macroalgal cover seen in 2000 suggests that coral loss at our study site was most likely due to bleaching and disease, rather than a response to macroalgal overgrowth. This study represents the first (and only) known study that simultaneously quantifies both a “phase-shift” in reef substrate as well as concurrent changes in the structure of a reef fish assemblage at a single coral reef in the tropical western Atlantic region.

Keywords

Coral reef Caribbean Fish assemblage Guild stability Coral loss Phase-shift 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by Grant 6479-99 from the National Geographic Society/Committee for Research and Exploration (to W.S.A.), and by funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency - South Florida Water Quality Protection Program (x7-97469002-8) and the National Science Foundation Ecology of Infectious Disease Program (OCE-1015342) (to J.W.P.). We thank C. Torres and M. Meyers for help with reef substrate image analysis. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for most their helpful suggestions. This research was conducted according to approved animal care and ethical requirements.

References

  1. Alevizon WS, Brooks MG (1975) The comparative structure of two western Atlantic reef-fish assemblages. Bull Mar Sci 25:482–490Google Scholar
  2. Alevizon WS, Gorham JC, Richardson R, McCarthy SA (1985) Use of man-made reefs to concentrate snapper (Lutjanidae) and grunts (Haemulidae) in Bahamian waters. Bull Mar Sci 37:3–10Google Scholar
  3. Aronson RB, Precht WF (2000) Herbivory and algal dynamics on the coral reef at discovery bay, Jamaica. Limnol Oceanogr 45:251–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aronson RB, Precht WF (2001) White-band disease and the changing face of Caribbean coral reefs. In: Porter JW (ed) The Ecology and Etiology of Newly Emerging Marine Diseases. Springer, Netherlands, pp 25–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aronson RB, Precht WF (2006) Conservation, precaution, and Caribbean reefs. Coral Reefs 25:441–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bellwod DR, Fulton CJ (2008) Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: decreasing resilience to rising sea-levels and climate change? Limnol Oceanogr 53:2695–2701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bellwood DR, Hughes TP, Folke C, Nyström M (2004) Confronting the coral reef crisis. Nat 429:827–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blondel J (2003) Guilds or functional groups: does it matter? Oikos 100:223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bohnsack JA, Harper DE, McClellan DB (1994) Fisheries trends from Monroe County, Florida. Bull Mar Sci 54:982–1018Google Scholar
  10. Boyer JN, Fourqurean JW, Jones RD (1999) Seasonal and long-term trends in the water quality of Florida Bay (1989–1997). Estuar 22:417–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruno JF, Sweatman H, Precht WF, Selig ER, Schutte VGW (2009) Assessing evidence of phase shifts from coral to macroalgal dominance on coral reefs. Ecol 90:1478–1484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheal AJ, et al. (2013) Spatial variation in the functional characteristics of herbivorous fish communities and the resilience of coral reefs. Ecological Applications 23:174–188Google Scholar
  13. Done TJ (1992) Phase shifts in coral reef communities and their ecological significance. In: Jaccarini V, Martens E (eds) The Ecology of Mangrove and Related Ecosystems. Springer, Netherlands, pp 121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dudgeo SR, Aronson RB, Bruno JF, Precht WF (2010) Phase shifts and stable states on coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 413:201–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dustan P, Halas JC (1987) Changes in the reef-coral community of Carysfort Reef, Key Largo, Florida: 1974 to 1982. Coral Reefs 6:91–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eristhee N, Oxenford HA (2001) Home range size and use of space by Bermuda chub Kyphosus sectatrix (L.) in two marine reserves in the Soufriere Marine Management Area, St. Lucia, West Indies. J Fish Biol 59:129–151Google Scholar
  17. Gardner TA, Côté IM, Gill JA, Grant A, Watkinson AR (2003) Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean corals. Sci 301:958–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ghent AW (1983) Tau as an index of similarity in community comparisons: an approach permitting the hypothesis of unequal species abundances. Can J Zool 61:687–690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ghent AW (1987) Tau as an index of similarity in community comparisons: the opposite null orientations of contingency and correlation tests. Am Midl Nat 117:221–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gladfelter WB (1982) White-band disease in Acropora palmata: implications for the structure and growth of shallow reefs. Bull Mar Sci 32:639–643Google Scholar
  21. Goatley CH, Bellwood DR (2012) Sediment suppresses herbivory across a coral reef depth gradient. Biol Lett 8:1016–1018CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Green AL, Bellwood DR (2009) Monitoring functional groups of herbivorous reef fishes as indicators of coral reef resilience – a practical guide for coral reef managers in the Asia Pacific region. IUCN working group on Climate Change and Coral Reefs. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, p 70Google Scholar
  23. Grimm V, Wissel, C (1997) Babel, or the ecological stability discussions: an inventory and analysis of terminology and a guide for avoiding confusion. Oecologia 109:323–334Google Scholar
  24. Hammerschlag N, Serafy JE (2010) Nocturnal fish utilization of a subtropical mangrove-seagrass ecotone. Mar Ecol 31:364–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hawkins JP, Roberts CM (2004) Effects of fishing on sex-changing Caribbean parrotfishes. Biol Conserv 115:213–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Helfman GS, Meyer JL, McFarland WN (1982) The ontogeny of twilight migration patterns in grunts (Pisces: Haemulidae). Anim Behav 30:317–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hughes TP (1994) Catastrophes, phase shifts, and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef. Sci 265:1547–1551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson JBC (2001) What was natural in the coastal oceans? Proc Nat Acad Sci 98:5411–5418CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Jones GP, Syms C (1998) Disturbance, habitat structure and the ecology of fishes on coral reefs. Aust J Ecol 23:287–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones GP, Ferrell DJ, Sale PF (1991) Fish predation and its impact on the invertebrates of coral reefs and adjacent sediments. In: Sale PF (ed) The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs. Academic, San Diego, pp 156–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jumars PA (1980) Rank correlation and concordance tests in community analyses: an inappropriate null hypothesis. Ecol 61:1553–1554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kramer PA (2003) Synthesis of coral reef health indicators for the western Atlantic: results of the AGRRA program (1997–2000). Atoll Res Bull 496:1–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lapointe BE, Barile PJ, Matzie WR (2004) Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment of seagrass and coral reef communities in the lower Florida keys: discrimination of local versus regional nitrogen sources. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 308:23–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lessios HA, Robertson DR, Cubit JD (1984) Spread of Diadema mass mortality through the Caribbean. Sci 226:335–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lewis SM, Wainwright PC (1985) Herbivore abundance and grazing intensity on a Caribbean coral reef. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 87:215–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lirman D (1999) Reef fish communities associated with Acropora palmata: relationships to benthic attributes. Bull Mar Sci 65:235–252Google Scholar
  37. Longley WH, Hildebrand SF (1941) Systematic catalogue of the fishes of Tortugas, Florida: with observations on color, habits, and local distribution. Carnegie Inst Wash 535:1–311Google Scholar
  38. McManus JW, Polsenberg JF (2004) Coral–algal phase shifts on coral reefs: ecological and environmental aspects. Prog Oceanogr 60:263–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Moyle PB, Vondracek B (1985) Persistence and structure of the fish assemblage in a small California stream. Ecol 66:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Murdoch TJT, Aronson RB (1999) Scale-dependent spatial variability of coral assemblages along the Florida reef tract. Coral Reefs 18:341–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nemeth RS, Kadison E (2013) Temporal patterns and behavioral characteristics of aggregation formation and spawning in the Bermuda chub (Kyphosus sectatrix). Coral Reefs 32:1067–1076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Norstrom AV, Nyström M, Lokrantz J, Folke C (2009) Alternative states on coral reefs: beyond coral–macroalgal phase shifts. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 376:295–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ogden JC, Ebersole JP (1981) Scale and community structure of coral reef fishes: a long-term study of a large artificial reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 4:97–103Google Scholar
  44. Paddack M et al (2009) Recent region-wide declines in Caribbean reef fish abundance. Curr Biol 19:590–595CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Pante E, King A, Dustan P (2008) Short-term decline of a Bahamian patch reef coral community: Rainbow Gardens Reef 1991–2004. Hydrobiologia 596:121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Porter JW, Meier OW (1992) Quantification of loss and change in Floridian reef coral populations. Am Zool 32:625–640Google Scholar
  47. Rahel FJ (1990) The hierarchical nature of community persistence: a problem of scale. Am Nat 136:328–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Randall JE (1963) An analysis of the fish populations of artificial and natural reefs in the Virgin Islands. Caribb J Sci 3:31–47Google Scholar
  49. Randall JE (1967) Food habits of reef fishes of the West Indies. Stud Trop Oceanogr 5:665–847Google Scholar
  50. Robblee MB, Zieman JC (1984) Diel variation in the fish fauna of a tropical seagrass feeding ground. Bull Mar Sci 34:335–345Google Scholar
  51. Rogers CS, Miller J (2006) Permanent “phase shifts” or reversible declines in coral cover? lack of recovery of two coral reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 306:103–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ruzicka RR et al (2013) Temporal changes in benthic assemblages on Florida Keys reefs 11 years after the 1997/1998 El Niño. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 489:125–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sandin SA et al (2008) Baselines and degradation of coral reefs in the northern Line Islands. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001548 Google Scholar
  54. Schutte V, Selig ER, Bruno JF (2010) Regional spatio-temporal trends in Caribbean coral reef benthic communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 402:115–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shinn EA (1963) Spur and groove formation on the Florida reef tract. J Sediment Res 33:291–303Google Scholar
  56. Shinn EA (1980) Geologic history of grecian rocks, key largo coral reef marine sanctuary. Bull Mar Sci 30:646–656Google Scholar
  57. Sigel BJ, Sherry TW, Young BE (2006) Avian community response to lowland tropical rainforest isolation: 40 years of change at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. Conserv Biol 20:111–121CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Simberloff D, Dayan T (1991) The guild concept and the structure of ecological communities. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 22:115–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Steneck RS (1988) Herbivory on coral reefs: a synthesis. In Proceedings of the Sixth International coral reef symposium. James Cook University Press, Queensland, pp 37–49Google Scholar
  60. Stone PA et al (1993) Temporal changes in two turtle assemblages. J Herpetol 1993:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vroom PS, Page KN KN, Kenyon JC, Brainard RE (2006) Algae-dominated reefs. Am Sci 94:430–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Williams ID, Polunin NVC (2001) Large-scale associations between macroalgal cover and grazer biomass on mid-depth reefs in the Caribbean. Coral Reefs 19:358–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wilson JB (1999) Guilds, functional types and ecological groups. Oikos 86:507–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wilson SK et al (2006) Multiple disturbances and the global degradation of coral reefs: are reef fishes at risk or resilient? Glob Chang Biol 12:2220–2234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yentsch CS et al (2002) Sunlight and water transparency: cornerstones in coral research. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 268:171–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical Analysis, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall Inc, EnglewoodsGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Odum School of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations