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Top-down and bottom-up regulation of macroalgal community structure on a Kenyan reef
Mörk, E.; Sjöö, G.L.; Kautsky, N.; McClanahan, T. R. (2009). Top-down and bottom-up regulation of macroalgal community structure on a Kenyan reef. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 84(3): 331-336. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2009.03.033
In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0272-7714, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    macroalgae, grazing, nutrients, coral reefs, community composition, reef degradation, 4°1'22.73?S, 39°44'0.23?E

Authors  Top 
  • Mörk, E.
  • Sjöö, G.L.
  • Kautsky, N.
  • McClanahan, T. R.

Abstract
    Top-down and bottom-up regulation in the form of grazing by herbivores and nutrient availability are important factors governing macroalgal communities in the coral reef ecosystem. Today, anthropogenic activities, such as over-harvesting of herbivorous fish and sea urchins and increased nutrient loading, are altering the interaction of these two structuring forces. The present study was conducted in Kenya and investigates the relative importance of herbivory and nutrient loading on macroalgal community dynamics, by looking at alterations in macroalgal functional groups, species diversity (if) and biomass within experimental quadrats. The experiment was conducted in situ for 42 days during the dry season. Cages excluding large herbivorous fish and sea urchins were used in the study and nutrient addition was conducted using coated, slow-release fertilizer (nitrogen and phosphorous) at a site where herbivory is generally low and nutrient levels are relatively high for the region. Nutrient addition increased tissue nutrient content in the algae, and fertilized quadrats had 24% higher species diversity. Herbivore exclusion resulted in a 77% increase in algal biomass, mainly attributable to a >1000% increase in corticated forms. These results are in accordance with similar studies in other regions, but are unique in that they indicate that, even when prevailing nutrient levels are relatively high and herbivore pressure is relatively low, continued anthropogenic disturbance results in further ecological responses and increased reef degradation.

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