Predators shape sedimentary organic carbon storage in a coral reef ecosystem

Trisha B. Atwood, Elizabeth M.P. Madin, Alastair R. Harborne, Edd Hammill, Osmar J. Luiz, Quinn R. Ollivier, Chris M. Roelfsema, Peter I. Macreadie, Catherine E. Lovelock

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Abstract

Trophic cascade theory predicts that predator effects should extend to influence carbon cycling in ecosystems. Yet, there has been little empirical evidence in natural ecosystems to support this hypothesis. Here, we use a naturally-occurring trophic cascade to provide evidence that predators help protect sedimentary organic carbon stocks in coral reef ecosystems. Our results show that predation risk altered the behavior of herbivorous fish, whereby it constrained grazing to areas close to the refuge of the patch reefs. Macroalgae growing in "riskier" areas further away from the reef were released from grazing pressure, which subsequently promoted carbon accumulation in the sediments underlying the macroalgal beds. Here we found that carbon stocks furthest away from the reef edge were ~24% higher than stocks closest to the reef. Our results indicate that predators and herbivores play an important role in structuring carbon dynamics in a natural marine ecosystem, highlighting the need to conserve natural predator-prey dynamics to help maintain the crucial role of marine sediments in sequestering carbon.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume6
Issue numberAUG
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

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carbon sequestration
coral reefs
coral reef
reefs
organic carbon
predator
predators
reef
ecosystems
carbon
ecosystem
trophic cascade
carbon sinks
grazing
marine sediments
grazing pressure
macroalgae
predation risk
herbivores
marine ecosystem

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Atwood, T. B., Madin, E. M. P., Harborne, A. R., Hammill, E., Luiz, O. J., Ollivier, Q. R., ... Lovelock, C. E. (2018). Predators shape sedimentary organic carbon storage in a coral reef ecosystem. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6(AUG), 1-11. [110]. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2018.00110
Atwood, Trisha B. ; Madin, Elizabeth M.P. ; Harborne, Alastair R. ; Hammill, Edd ; Luiz, Osmar J. ; Ollivier, Quinn R. ; Roelfsema, Chris M. ; Macreadie, Peter I. ; Lovelock, Catherine E. / Predators shape sedimentary organic carbon storage in a coral reef ecosystem. In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 2018 ; Vol. 6, No. AUG. pp. 1-11.
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Atwood, TB, Madin, EMP, Harborne, AR, Hammill, E, Luiz, OJ, Ollivier, QR, Roelfsema, CM, Macreadie, PI & Lovelock, CE 2018, 'Predators shape sedimentary organic carbon storage in a coral reef ecosystem', Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 6, no. AUG, 110, pp. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2018.00110

Predators shape sedimentary organic carbon storage in a coral reef ecosystem. / Atwood, Trisha B.; Madin, Elizabeth M.P.; Harborne, Alastair R.; Hammill, Edd; Luiz, Osmar J.; Ollivier, Quinn R.; Roelfsema, Chris M.; Macreadie, Peter I.; Lovelock, Catherine E.

In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 6, No. AUG, 110, 03.08.2018, p. 1-11.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AU - Ollivier, Quinn R.

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