Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation

M. González-Rivero, Y.M. Bozec, I. Chollett, R. Ferrari, Christine H. L. Schonberg, P.J. Mumby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Disturbance releases space and allows the growth of opportunistic species, excluded by the old stands, with a potential to alter community dynamics. In coral reefs, abundances of fast-growing, and disturbance-tolerant sponges are expected to increase and dominate as space becomes available following acute coral mortality events. Yet, an increase in abundance of these opportunistic species has been reported in only a few studies, suggesting certain mechanisms may be acting to regulate sponge populations. To gain insights into mechanisms of population control, we simulated the dynamics of the common reef-excavating sponge Cliona tenuis in the Caribbean using an individual-based model. An orthogonal hypothesis testing approach was used, where four candidate mechanisms—algal competition, stock-recruitment limitation, whole and partial mortality—were incorporated sequentially into the model and the results were tested against independent field observations taken over a decade in Belize, Central America. We found that releasing space after coral mortality can promote C. tenuis outbreaks, but such outbreaks can be curtailed by macroalgal competition. The asymmetrical competitive superiority of macroalgae, given by their capacity to pre-empt space and outcompete with the sponge in a size-dependant fashion, supports their capacity to steal the opportunity from other opportunists. While multiple system stages can be expected in coral reefs following intense perturbation macroalgae may prevent the growth of other space-occupiers, such as bioeroding sponges, under low grazing pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-173
JournalOecologia
Volume181
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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asymmetric competition
Porifera
sponge
coral reefs
coral reef
degradation
macroalgae
corals
coral
disturbance
mortality
individual-based model
Belize
hypothesis testing
grazing pressure
community dynamics
Central America
reefs
reef
perturbation

Cite this

González-Rivero, M. ; Bozec, Y.M. ; Chollett, I. ; Ferrari, R. ; Schonberg, Christine H. L. ; Mumby, P.J. / Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation. In: Oecologia. 2016 ; Vol. 181, No. 1. pp. 161-173.
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Asymmetric competition prevents the outbreak of an opportunistic species after coral reef degradation. / González-Rivero, M.; Bozec, Y.M.; Chollett, I.; Ferrari, R.; Schonberg, Christine H. L.; Mumby, P.J.

In: Oecologia, Vol. 181, No. 1, 05.2016, p. 161-173.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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