Marine Biology

, Volume 129, Issue 4, pp 713–722 | Cite as

Effects of herbivory on zonation of Sargassum spp. within fringing reefs of the central Great Barrier Reef

  • L. J. McCook


A combination of small-scale transplants and herbivore exclusion was used to test the importance of herbivory, physiological tolerance limits, and recruitment and dispersal in regulating the distribution and abundance of the genus Sargassum on two nearshore fringing reefs of the central Great Barrier Reef, during 1992/1993. Sargassum (predominantly S. oligocystum and S. tenerrimum) were transplanted from reef-flat zones where they normally grow, to a seaward coral zone where they are not normally found. At Great Palm Island, coral-zone transplants only survived if protected from herbivores. At Brook Island, survival of uncaged coral-zone transplants was more variable but not significantly lower than plants returned to the Sargassum zone. Thus herbivory may be a major cause of the zonation patterns of adult Sargassum on these fringing reefs, but the importance of this factor varies between and within reefs. Since protected Sargassum survived and grew for up to 6 mo in the coral zone, the adult algae are not physiologically limited by any physical or chemical differences between zones. However, Sargassum recruitment to the coral zone was very low (mean 2.7 recruits m−2 over 13 mo), and was not significantly affected by herbivores. Since rates of herbivory were relatively slow, effective exclusion of Sargassum from the coral zone by herbivores may depend on low recruitment of the algae. In a broader context, the distribution of Sargassum may depend on the combined spatial patterns of herbivory and recruitment.


Spatial Pattern Broad Context Great Barrier Reef Tolerance Limit Chemical Difference 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. J. McCook
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian Institute of Marine Science and CRC Reef Research Centre, PMB No. 3, Townsville MC, Townsville, Queensland 4810, AustraliaAU

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