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Coral/seaweed competition and the control of reef community structure within and between latitudes
Miller, M.W. (1998). Coral/seaweed competition and the control of reef community structure within and between latitudes. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 36: 65-96
In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. Aberdeen University Press/Allen & Unwin: London. ISSN 0078-3218; e-ISSN 2154-9125, more
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  • Miller, M.W.

    Many tropical coral reefs have recently manifested increasing dominance byseaweeds, in many cases a symptom of anthropogenic stresses. A pattern ofincreasing plant dominance also occurs over a gradient of increasing latitude, bothat the present time and over evolutionary history. Competition from seaweeds hasbeen hypothesized to be the direct cause of the restriction of scleractiniancoral-built reef structures to tropical waters. Intense grazing and, to a lesser extent,low nutrient levels characteristic of low latitude habitats appear to be keydeterminants in maintaining the dominance of corals on tropical reefs. Theseecological factors are less typical of temperate waters and so may providemechanisms for the observed latitudinal shift in dominance of reef benthiccommunities. Also, anthropogenic alterations of these factors via overfishing andeutrophication are widespread in coastal areas, and so may account for recentshifts towards seaweed dominance observed in many tropical coral reefs.Although effects f altered grazing regimes on tropical reefs have been welldemonstrated experimentally, controlled experiments on nutrient perturbations arefew. Even fewer are tidies designed to detect the interactive effects ofperturbations in grazing and nutrient regimes on benthic community structure.Because overfishing and eutrophication often co-occur in the real world within acontext of other natural disturbances such as storms, El Nino Southern oscillationevents, or epizootic die-offs, a rigorous experimental approach is necessary,although often lacking, for the discernment of the relative importance of each.Better understanding of such interactions in both plant- and animal-dominatedcommunities, in temperate (rocky) and tropical (coral) reefs, is vital to successfulmanagement and conservation of reef ecosystems.

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