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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2011, Article ID 960207, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2011/960207
Research Article

Grazing Effects of Fish versus Sea Urchins on Turf Algae and Coral Recruits: Possible Implications for Coral Reef Resilience and Restoration

1Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel
2Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Ltd, The National Institute of Oceanography, P.O. Box 3080, Tel Shikmona, Haifa 31080, Israel

Received 13 April 2011; Accepted 14 June 2011

Academic Editor: Ricardo Serrão Santos

Copyright © 2011 Leor Korzen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Herbivory is an important structuring factor in coral reefs, influencing seaweed abundance, competitive interactions between seaweeds and corals, and coral reef resilience. Despite reports of a drastic increase in the cover of benthic algae and turf dominancy in the coral reefs of Eilat, Red Sea, very little is known about the factors responsible for this phenomenon or the possible effects of herbivory on turf algae and coral recruits. Here, we examine the effects of herbivory by experimentally exposing turf algae and coral recruits to grazing activities of herbivorous fish and sea urchins. Using remote video cameras to document removal of algae and coral spats, we show that the main grazing impact is due to daily grazing by fishes, whereas the significant impact of sea urchins is mainly expressed in their adverse effect on the survival of coral recruits, with a relatively low effect on algal biomass. These findings contribute to our understanding of the factors influencing turf algae establishment and proliferation, and the survival of coral recruits on the coral reefs of Eilat. The clear differences between the impact of herbivorous fish and that of sea urchins, on the Eilat reefs, have critical implications for reef resilience and restoration measures.