Why is it useful to compare rainforests and reefs?

Robyn Cumming Robyn.Cumming at usp.ac.fj
Sun May 28 22:01:20 EDT 2000

Hi Coral-listers

Since we are discussing similarities between rainforests and reefs I think
it is worth pointing out a number of parallels in terms of predation on the
main habitat builders – trees and reef-building corals.

A large number of species prey directly on reef-building corals, including
echinoderms, gastropods, crustaceans, polychaetes and fish (see for example
Robertson 1970, Pacific Science 24:43). In both systems, these predators are
grazers which normally injure rather than kill their prey. This opens up
possibilities for complex behavioural and defensive responses of the prey.
For many of them, with the notable exception of some vertebrates, the prey
also provides substrate and protection.

In at least one case, the amount of prey standing crop removed annually
parallels that of insect herbivores (2-12% by the gastropods Drupella {my
data – unpublished}). I will go further to suggest that the ecological role
of Drupella in coral reefs parallels that of insects in terrestrial forests,
in that they exert a continual drain on energetic resources of their hosts.

Also, some species undergo population outbreaks like those of insect
herbivores: Acanthaster planci, Drupella cornus, Drupella fragum.


Robyn Cumming
Lecturer in Ecology
School of Pure and Applied Sciences
The University of the South Pacific
PO Box 1168

ph:    + 679 21 2455
fax:   + 679 31 5601 or 30 2548

email:  robyn.cumming at usp.ac.fj
web:    http://www.usp.ac.fj/biology/staff/robyn.html

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