TitleWave exposure reduces herbivory in post-disturbed reefs by filtering species composition, abundance and behaviour of key fish herbivores.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsKarkarey R, Rathod P, Arthur R, Yadav S, Theo A, Alcoverro T
JournalSci Rep
Date Published2020 Jun 19

Harsh environmental conditions limit how species use the landscape, strongly influencing the way assemblages are distributed. In the wake of repeated coral bleaching mortalities in Lakshadweep, we examined how wave exposure influences herbivory  in exposed and sheltered reefs. We used a combination of i. field observations of fish herbivore composition, abundance and activity across 6 exposed and 6 sheltered reefs; ii. experimental manipulations in a subset of these reefs (herbivore exclosures); and iii. opportunistic observations of fish recruitment, to determine how exposure influences herbivore biomass and herbivory. Species richness, biomass, abundance, total bite rates and species-specific per capita bite rates were lower in exposed compared to sheltered reefs, linked to strong environmental filtering of species composition, abundance and behaviour. For some critical species, this environmental filtering begins with differential recruitment and post-recruitment processes between exposures. Bite rates at sheltered sites were dominated by just a few species, most being laterally compressed surgeonfish that may find it difficult accessing or surviving in wave-battered shallow reefs. Exclosure experiments confirmed  that exposed reefs  were less controlled by herbivores than sheltered reefs. In post-disturbed reefs like Lakshadweep, environmental gradients appear to be key mediators of critical functions like herbivory by determining species composition, abundance and behaviour.

Alternate JournalSci Rep
PubMed ID32561833
PubMed Central IDPMC7305165