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Increased Algal Dominance Despite Presence of Diadema Antillarum Populations on a Caribbean Coral Reef

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Populations of Diadema antillarum (philippi, 1845) have been slow to recover after their 1983 caribbean-wide massive mortality. The continued absence of this important coral reef herbivore as well as further impacts on local and regional-scales have severely threatened the health of coral reefs. from 2008 to 2011, the population of D. antillarum and structure of the benthic community were monitored within Akumal Bay, Mexico, a heavily impacted ecosystem. Across the 4 yrs of the study, densities of adult D. antillarum did not significantly change and were highest on backreef sites (mean 1.30 and 1.44 m–2). Coral cover was low at all sites (maximum 14%) and decreased during the 4 yrs of the study. Changes in crustose coralline algae (CCA) cover varied by year but was significantly higher on forereef sites, while cover by turf-algal-sediment (TAS) increased at all four sites. Diadema antillarum densities correlated positively with coral and CCA cover in the backreef sites where sea urchin densities were higher but no correlation occurred with TAS and turf. Where Echinometra lucunter (Linnaeus, 1758) sea urchins were more prevalent, their densities correlated negatively with coral and positively with CCA. Although densities of adult D. antillarum were comparable to other regions of the Caribbean, increases in TAS over the 4 yrs of this study may be evidence that even an important herbivore cannot prevent continued decline of a reef in an impacted ecosystem.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5343/bms.2012.1015

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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