Species composition of Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) on coral reefs at Europa Island and associated connectivity across the Mozambique Channel

Abstract

The soft coral fauna (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea) on reefs around Europa Island (Western Indian Ocean) were surveyed in 2016. The species richness was rather low for a protected, relatively pristine environment in the region. While certain ‘fugitive’ alcyonacean species were noticeably abundant, other soft corals were rare or absent. Since Europa Island is remote and isolated, connectivity was thus investigated with other alcyonacean communities in the Mozambique Channel by particle transport modelling. This revealed that, while the north-west coast of Madagascar appears well-connected with the northern Mozambique coast, the most likely source of soft coral recruits at Europa Island would be the Tulear region further south in Madagascar.

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Acknowledgements

This project formed part of the SIREME programme co-ordinated by Pascale Chabanet (Représentante de l’IRD à La Réunion, à Mayotte et aux Iles Eparses). Sample analysis and write-up were supported by a National Research Foundation Grant (MHS) and the Israel Cohen Chair in Environmental Zoology (YB). Support was provided in the field by TAAF, and by Nicolas and Anne Tisné on the research yacht Antsiva. Alex Shlagman attended to the curation of the preserved soft coral specimens in the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University, Israel. The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for useful comments that improved the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by the 10th European Regional Development Fund (Xe FED) in close collaboration with Conseil Départemental de Mayotte (CDM) and Terres Australes et Antarctiques Française (TAAF) under the supervision of the French Development Agency (AFD).

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Correspondence to M. H. Schleyer.

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Schleyer, M.H., Downey-Breedt, N.J. & Benayahu, Y. Species composition of Alcyonacea (Octocorallia) on coral reefs at Europa Island and associated connectivity across the Mozambique Channel. Mar Biodiv 49, 2485–2491 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12526-019-00975-7

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Keywords

  • Soft corals
  • Larval dispersal
  • Particle transport modelling
  • Oceanographic eddies
  • East Africa
  • Madagascar
  • Western Indian Ocean