[Coral-List] Algae and nutrients and herbivory in oligotrophic waters

Thomas Goreau goreau at bestweb.net
Wed Jun 18 13:06:19 EDT 2008

Dear Imam,

Very few of the studies on herbivory and algae are any good, because  
only a tiny handful have made accurate nutrient measurements. When  
this is done properly it is clear that nutrients drive algae  
productivity and herbivory is only a secondary factor, because  
grazers prefer to eat some species and avoid others. I've looked at  
the zonation of algae species in reefs all around the world and these  
are sharply zoned by nutrients in ways that clearly reveal the  
sources. Every place I've looked with nutrient sources are dominated  
by algae whether or not herbivores are present (and herbivore always  
dominate the fish where there are nutrient sources, whether these are  
from human land-based sources or from upwelling), and algae are  
absent or rare where there are no nutrient sources, again whether or  
not there are herbivores (which there rarely are).  This is the exact  
opposite of what top-downers predict.

As far as coralivores go, I also think the popular conceptions are  
often erroneous. Most alleged coral eating is much less than is  
claimed. Butterflyfish mostly just suck off surface mucus and there  
is little or no physical damage to polyps. Parrotfish that are  
allegedly biting coral are almost inevitably biting algae growing on  
dead coral, and avoiding the coral tissue, as you can see if you look  
closely where they bite. The popular claims that parrotfish eat coral  
is probably largely untrue, and much of their biting of corals is  
really territorial marking the boundaries of breeding territories  
rather than for food. Almost every time you look where a bumphead  
parrotfish or Napoleon wrasse has bitten into large bubble  coral  
colonies, you will see the tubes of the burrowing clams and worms  
inside the coral that they were really eating rather than coral tissue.

I'll talk a bit about this at the next Gili Trawangan workshop in  
early December. Look forward to continuing to work with you there and  
other sites around Lombok. My best to all my friends in Bogor.

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net

Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:28:37 -0700
From: "Imam Bachtiar" <ibachtiar at telkom.net>
Subject: [Coral-List] Herbivory on oligotrophic waters
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Cc: coremap2 at yahoogroups.com
Message-ID: <000801c8d171$226bd120$67437360$@net>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="us-ascii"

Dear all,
Herbivory is thought to be a key process in coral reef resilience.  
studies have shown its importance in controlling macroalgae and provide
space for larval settlement. Most papers discussing about herbivory
exclusion experiments, however, do not clearly explain whether the  
of study is oligotrophic or mesotrophic. Some other papers also indicate
that nutrients is not limiting factor of macroalgae growth. I would like
therefore to have your opinion or comments about this.
1) Is there any paper studying herbivory in oligotrophic waters?
2) Which one is more important in reconstruction of reef communities in
oligotrophic waters: herbivory vs corallivory?
Looking forward to have your reply.

Best regards,
Imam Bachtiar
Postgraduate School
Institut Pertanian Bogor, Indonesia

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