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Anthropogenic stressors, inter-specific competition and ENSO effects on a Mauritian coral reef

Lookup NU author(s): Nicholas Graham, Dr Tim McClanahan


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Much of the western Indian Ocean suffered widespread loss of live coral in 1998 and interest is now focussed on the indirect effects of this coral loss on other components of the ecosystem, in particular fishes. However, it is just as important to identify changes in fish assemblages at locations that did not suffer coral mortality to understand local versus regional drivers. We surveyed benthic and fish communities on a reef flat in Mauritius five times between 1994 and 2005. The design allowed for comparison through time, along the coast and between inshore and offshore reef locations. The benthic community demonstrates a clear trend along the coast, likely in response to a dredged water ski lane, but little change through time. Branching Acropora colonies dominate much of the live coral and best explain patterns in the fish assemblage (P < 0.01). Few changes in overall fish species richness through time were identified, and observed changes were within fishery target families rather than species reliant on live coral. Departure from expected levels of taxonomic distinctness suggests degradation in the community associated with the dredged ski lane. Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling of the fish assemblage demonstrates a similar pattern to that seen in the benthos; greater differences along the coast (Global R = 0.34) than through time (Global R = 0.17) and no trend between reef positions. SIMPER analysis identified two species of Stegastes as the main drivers of trends in the MDS plot and the most dominant of these, S. lividus, appears to be reducing species richness of the remaining fish community. The study highlights Mauritius as a regional refugia of thermally-sensitive corals and specialised fish, suggesting a need for careful management. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Graham NAJ, McClanahan TR, Letourneur Y, Galzin R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Biology of Fishes

Year: 2007

Volume: 78

Issue: 1

Pages: 57-69

ISSN (print): 0378-1909

ISSN (electronic): 1573-5133

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


DOI: 10.1007/s10641-006-9077-5


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