Outplanting of branching Acropora enhances recolonization of a fish species and protects massive corals from predation

Tiddy, I.C., Kaullysing, D., Bailey, D.M. , Chummun, P.K., Killen, S.S. , Le Vin, A. and Bhagooli, R. (2021) Outplanting of branching Acropora enhances recolonization of a fish species and protects massive corals from predation. Coral Reefs, 40(5), pp. 1549-1561. (doi: 10.1007/s00338-021-02147-1)

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Abstract

Damselfish of the genus Stegastes inhabit territories and cultivate algal gardens on branching corals of the genus Acropora, aggressively protecting their territories from other fish and preventing predation upon corals within the territory. This behaviour has important ecological impacts and could also be useful in reducing predation on outplanted corals during reef restoration efforts. However, the degree of protection from predators may depend on the ability of Stegastes spp. to recolonise outplanted or newly established coral colonies. Protection of bleaching-resilient massive corals within territories may be of particular importance due to the role of these corals in maintaining coral cover following bleaching events. This study examined whether the presence of Stegastes spp. reduces predation on the massive bleaching-resilient coral Porites lutea in the Mauritian lagoon, and whether Stegastes spp. readily colonise outplanted branching coral fragments and provide adjacent massive corals with indirect protection from predation. Predation levels on wild-occurring and outplanted P. lutea within and outside Stegastes spp. territories were measured. In addition, Acropora muricata branches were outplanted adjacent to wild P. lutea colonies outside Stegastes spp. territories, and recolonisation of these outplants by Stegastes spp. and the impacts of recolonisation on predation were monitored. Both wild and outplanted P. lutea colonies within Stegastes spp. territories sustained less predation damage compared to colonies outside territories. Stegastes spp. recolonized outplanted A. muricata colonies within six months of outplanting, and in doing so returned predation protection to adjacent P. lutea colonies. The ability of Stegastes spp. to colonise outplanted corals and provide indirect protection to adjacent massive bleaching-resilient corals may inform coral outplanting efforts in systems where Stegastes spp. are common. Encouraging Stegastes spp. recolonisation may help to reduce predation damage to corals within territories and potentially improve the success of rehabilitation efforts.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:RB is grateful to the University of Mauritius (R214 and RF002) and Higher Education Commission (T0721 and T0105) for research funds to study coral reefs. For funding to allow conference attendance, we are grateful to the University of Mauritius (Department of Biosciences and Ocean Studies) and the University of Glasgow (School of Life Sciences). SSK was supported by Natural Environment Research Council Advanced Fellowship (NE/J019100/1) and European Research Council starting grant (640004).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bailey, Dr David and Le Vin, Dr Ashley and Killen, Professor Shaun
Authors: Tiddy, I.C., Kaullysing, D., Bailey, D.M., Chummun, P.K., Killen, S.S., Le Vin, A., and Bhagooli, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences
Journal Name:Coral Reefs
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0722-4028
ISSN (Online):1432-0975
Published Online:02 July 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Coral Reefs 40(5): 1549-1561
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
167015The Influence of Individual Physiology on Group Behaviour in Fish SchoolsShaun KillenNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J019100/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine