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Acanthaster planci Outbreak: Decline in Coral Health, Coral Size Structure Modification and Consequences for Obligate Decapod Assemblages

Abstract : Although benthic motile invertebrate communities encompass the vast majority of coral reef diversity, their response to habitat modification has been poorly studied. A variety of benthic species, particularly decapods, provide benefits to their coral host enabling them to cope with environmental stressors, and as a result benefit the overall diversity of coral-associated species. However, little is known about how invertebrate assemblages associated with corals will be affected by global perturbations, (either directly or indirectly via their coral host) or their consequences for ecosystem resilience. Analysis of a ten year dataset reveals that the greatest perturbation at Moorea over this time was an outbreak of the corallivorous sea star Acanthaster planci from 2006 to 2009 impacting habitat health, availability and size structure of Pocillopora spp. populations and highlights a positive relationship between coral head size and survival. We then present the results of a mensurative study in 2009 conducted at the end of the perturbation (A. planci outbreak) describing how coral-decapod communities change with percent coral mortality for a selected coral species, Pocillopora eydouxi. The loss of coral tissue as a consequence of A. planci consumption led to an increase in rarefied total species diversity, but caused drastic modifications in community composition driven by a shift from coral obligate to non-obligate decapod species. Our study highlights that larger corals left with live tissue in 2009, formed a restricted habitat where coral obligate decapods, including mutualists, could subsist. We conclude that the size structure of Pocillopora populations at the time of an A. planci outbreak may greatly condition the magnitude of coral mortality as well as the persistence of local populations of obligate decapods.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00722785
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Submitted on : Saturday, August 4, 2012 - 1:49:09 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 28, 2022 - 4:20:11 PM

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Matthieu Leray, Maxime Béraud, Arthur Anker, Yannick Chancerelle, Suzanne C Mills. Acanthaster planci Outbreak: Decline in Coral Health, Coral Size Structure Modification and Consequences for Obligate Decapod Assemblages. PLoS ONE, 2012, 7 (4), pp.e35456. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0035456⟩. ⟨hal-00722785⟩

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