Recruitment and Resilience of a Harvested Caribbean OctocoralReportar como inadecuado

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Disturbance events are an important component of the ecology of coral reefs and increasingly frequent disturbances coupled with a lack of population resilience may contribute to changes in the structure of coral reef communities. The harvest of the Caribbean octocoral Antillogorgia elisabethae provides an opportunity to explore the relationship between adult abundance and recruitment and the manner in which recruitment contributes to the resilience of local populations. Recruitment of A. elisabethae was monitored in 20, 1-m2 quadrats at 8 sites along the southern edge of the Little Bahama Bank from 2004 through 2007. A. elisabethae has been harvested in The Bahamas for over fifteen years and all of the sites had been harvested three times, including a harvest during the course of the study. Abundances of adult colonies at those sites as well as a location that had not been harvested were also determined. Recruitment was highly variable, differing between sites, transects within sites, and, depending on the site, between years. Recruitment was best correlated with adult abundance averaged across the surrounding site. Regression analyses suggest abundance on smaller scales had only small effects on recruitment. The effects of the harvesting were site specific ranging from a 38 to 67% reduction in the density of mature colonies. The sites with the most abundant A. elisabethae continued to have the highest abundances after harvesting and there was no significant difference in recruitment before and after harvesting. Population size-structure at 6 of 8 sites that have been harvested multiple times exhibited an overall depletion in small colonies suggesting long term suppression of recruitment and declining populations. Severe depression of adult abundances coupled with local recruitment can create a negative feedback and lead to the decline of local populations. Populations that are dependent on self-recruitment are not resilient to large disturbance events.

Autor: Howard R. Lasker



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