Monday, August 11, 2008

A bed of nails??? What are we up to now?



By Brittany Huntington, Doctoral Student, RMSAS Univ. of Miami and BREAM summer graduate intern, funded by ACP

These terracotta tiles imbedded with nails are actually part of a larger experiment we are currently undertaking to explore the impact of herbivorous fishes on the recruitment and settlement success of young corals.

Bermuda is unique in the world for protecting its herbivorous fish communities through a now 30-year-old ban on fish pot. As a result, there are conspicuous bands of large-bodied parrotfishes and surgeonfishes roving over the reef of Bermuda and grazing down the standing macroalgal biomass on the reefs.

While healthy stocks of herbivorous fishes have been hailed as the key to preventing macroalgal phase shifts on coral reefs worldwide, little is known about how healthy, robust populations of the herbivores will impact the survival of young coral recruits.

By manipulating the fish access to our terracotta settlement tiles, we hope to better understand the role of large-bodied parrotfishes and the grazing fish community at large on the settlement and survival of coral recruits. This experiment will last just over a year in duration, ending in the fall of 2009.

We hope results from this study will emphasize the need to look at herbivorous fish influences on coral communities across the multiple coral life stages and potentially make an argument for protecting not only the herbivorous fishes themselves, but also the predators of this herbivore guild to help maintain controlled populations up the trophic system.