Trophic Cascade Facilitates Coral Recruitment in a Marine Reserve

This study examined whether or not grazing by fishes determined macroalgal cover, which in turn influences the recruitment of coral species on Caribbean reefs. The authors based their study in the Bahamas and included the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP). The authors found that grazing positively influenced the density and community structure of coral recruits, demonstrating that marine reserves can do more than just protect fish communities. The study described a relationship in which the more grazing done by fish, specifically parrotfish, the more substrate available for recruiting corals and thus, more coral recruits. In fact, they found a two-fold increase in coral recruitment associated with high levels of grazing inside the ECLSP. This study supports one of the key aspects of enhancing resilience by advocating for management of grazers.

Author: Mumby, P.J., A.R. Harborne, J. Williams, C.V. Kappel, D.R. Brumbaugh, F. Micheli, K.E. Holmes, C.P. Dahlgren, C.B. Paris, and P.G. Blackwell
Year: 2007
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(20): 8362–8367. doi:10.1073/pnas.0702602104

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