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First insights into the impacts of benthic cyanobacterial mats on fish herbivory functions on a nearshore coral reef
Ford, A.K.; Visser, P.M.; van Herk, M.J.; Jongepier, E.; Bonito, V. (2021). First insights into the impacts of benthic cyanobacterial mats on fish herbivory functions on a nearshore coral reef. NPG Scientific Reports 11(1): 7147. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-84016-z
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Ford, A.K.
  • Visser, P.M., more
  • van Herk, M.J.
  • Jongepier, E.
  • Bonito, V.

Abstract
    Benthic cyanobacterial mats (BCMs) are becoming increasingly common on coral reefs. In Fiji, blooms generally occur in nearshore areas during warm months but some are starting to prevail through cold months. Many fundamental knowledge gaps about BCM proliferation remain, including their composition and how they influence reef processes. This study examined a seasonal BCM bloom occurring in a 17-year-old no-take inshore reef area in Fiji. Surveys quantified the coverage of various BCM-types and estimated the biomass of key herbivorous fish functional groups. Using remote video observations, we compared fish herbivory (bite rates) on substrate covered primarily by BCMs (> 50%) to substrate lacking BCMs (< 10%) and looked for indications of fish (opportunistically) consuming BCMs. Samples of different BCM-types were analysed by microscopy and next-generation amplicon sequencing (16S rRNA). In total, BCMs covered 51 ± 4% (mean ± s.e.m) of the benthos. Herbivorous fish biomass was relatively high (212 ± 36 kg/ha) with good representation across functional groups. Bite rates were significantly reduced on BCM-dominated substratum, and no fish were unambiguously observed consuming BCMs. Seven different BCM-types were identified, with most containing a complex consortium of cyanobacteria. These results provide insight into BCM composition and impacts on inshore Pacific reefs.

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