Effects of corallivory and coral colony density on coral growth and survival.


Kopecky, K. L.,Cook, D. T.,Schmitt, R. J., andStier, A. C.


Coral Reefs


A suite of processes drive variation in coral populations in space and time, yet our understanding of how variation in coral density affects coral performance is limited. Theory predicts that reductions in density can send coral populations into a predator pit, where concentrated corallivory maintains corals at low densities. In reality, how variation in coral density alters corallivory rates is poorly resolved. Here, we experimentally quantified the effects of corallivory and coral density on growth and survival of small colonies of the staghorn coral Acropora pulchra. Our findings suggest that coral density and corallivory have strong but independent effects on coral performance. In the presence of corallivores, corals suffered high but density-independent mortality. When corallivores were excluded, however, vertical extension rates of colonies increased with increasing densities. While we found no evidence for a predator pit, our results suggest that spatio-temporal variation in corallivore and coral densities can fundamentally alter population dynamics via strong effects on juvenile corals.





Publication Type: 

Journal Article

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