Low Bioerosion Rates on Inshore Turbid Reefs of Western Australia
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Bioerosion on inshore reefs is expected to increase with global climate change reducing reef stability and accretionary potential. Most studies investigating bioerosion have focused on external grazers, such as parrotfish and urchins, whose biomass is more easily measured. Yet, cryptic endolithic bioeroders such as macroboring (worms, sponges and bivalves) and microboring taxa (fungus and algae) have the potential to be the dominant source of reef erosion, especially among inshore reef systems exposed to increased nutrient supply. We measured bioerosion rates of bioeroder functional groups (microborers, macroborers, and grazers), and their response to environmental parameters (temperature, light, turbidity, chlorophyll a), as well as habitat variables (coral cover, turfing algae, macroalgae) across two inshore turbid reefs of north Western Australia. Total bioerosion rates were low (0.163 ± 0.012 kg m−2 year−1) likely due to low light and nutrient levels. Macroborers were the dominant source of bioerosion and were positively correlated with turfing algae cover, highlighting the role of turf-grazing fish on endolithic bioerosion rates. Overall low bioerosion rates suggest that despite the reduced coral cover and carbonate production, these reefs may still maintain positive reef accretion rates, at least under current environmental conditions. However, an improved understanding of relationships between environmental drivers, habitat and grazing pressure with bioeroding communities is needed to improve predictions of reef carbonate loss with future climate change.
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