Chemical and Physical Environmental Conditions Underneath Mat- and Canopy-Forming Macroalgae, and Their Effects on Understorey Corals

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Author(s) Hauri, Claudine, Fabricius, Katharina E., Schaffelke, Britta, Humphrey, Craig
Publication Type Journal Items, Publication Status: Published
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Title Chemical and Physical Environmental Conditions Underneath Mat- and Canopy-Forming Macroalgae, and Their Effects on Understorey Corals
Author(s) Hauri, Claudine
Fabricius, Katharina E.
Schaffelke, Britta
Humphrey, Craig
Description 9 p.
Journal or Series Title PLoS one
Volume Number 5
Issue Number 9
Start Page e12685
ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher PubMed Central
Publication Place Lawrence, KS
Publication Date 2010-09-13
Abstract Disturbed coral reefs are often dominated by dense mat- or canopy-forming assemblages of macroalgae. This study investigated how such dense macroalgal assemblages change the chemical and physical microenvironment for understorey corals, and how the altered environmental conditions affect the physiological performance of corals. Field measurements were conducted on macroalgal-dominated inshore reefs in the Great Barrier Reef in quadrats with macroalgal biomass ranging from 235 to 1029 g DW m(-2) dry weight. Underneath mat- forming assemblages, the mean concentration of dissolved oxygen was reduced by 26% and irradiance by 96% compared with conditions above the mat, while concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and soluble reactive phosphorous increased by 26% and 267%, respectively. The difference was significant but less pronounced under canopy-forming assemblages. Dissolved oxygen declined and dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity increased with increasing algal biomass underneath mat- forming but not under canopy-forming assemblages. The responses of corals to conditions similar to those found underneath algal assemblages were investigated in an aquarium experiment. Coral nubbins of the species Acropora millepora showed reduced photosynthetic yields and increased RNA/DNA ratios when exposed to conditions simulating those underneath assemblages (pre-incubating seawater with macroalgae, and shading). The magnitude of these stress responses increased with increasing proportion of pre-incubated algal water. Our study shows that mat- forming and, to a lesser extent, canopy-forming macroalgal assemblages alter the physical and chemical microenvironment sufficiently to directly and detrimentally affect the metabolism of corals, potentially impeding reef recovery from algal to coral-dominated states after disturbance. Macroalgal dominance on coral reefs therefore simultaneously represents a consequence and cause of coral reef degradation.
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0012685
Document Type Article
Publication Status Published
Language English
Assigned Organisational Unit(s) 03731
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  author = "Hauri, Claudine and Fabricius, Katharina E. and Schaffelke, Britta and Humphrey, Craig",
  title = "{C}hemical and {P}hysical {E}nvironmental {C}onditions {U}nderneath {M}at- and {C}anopy-{F}orming {M}acroalgae, and {T}heir {E}ffects on {U}nderstorey {C}orals",
  journal = "PLoS one",
  year = 2010,
  volume = "5",
  number = "9",
  pages = "e12685--",
  month = sep,

E-Citations record created: Mon, 04 Oct 2010, 05:54:00 CET