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Apparent stability of a low-density Diadema antillarum regime for Puerto Rican coral reefs


Rodriguez-Barreras, R and Montanez-Acuna, A and Otano-Cruz, A and Ling, SD, Apparent stability of a low-density Diadema antillarum regime for Puerto Rican coral reefs, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 75, (6) pp. 2193-2201. ISSN 1054-3139 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2018 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea

DOI: doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsy093


Caribbean reefs have suffered decline in coral cover in recent decades due to recurrent anthropogenic and natural stressors. The regional collapse of the sea urchin Diadema antillarum, combined with overfishing, has contributed to a phase-shift of coral reef communities towards fleshy macroalgal dominance. Here, we examine the population dynamics of D. antillarum at five sites in Puerto Rico from 2011 to 2016 and determine trends between the sea urchin and local benthic habitats. The sea urchin population exhibited low but stable densities (with slight, but non-significant trend of increase), yet showed variability between sites. Large urchins (>60 mm test diam.) were the most abundant across sites and through time, followed by medium urchins (4160 mm test diam.), whereas small individuals (<40 mm) were rare, indicating recruitment-limitation. Spatial and temporal differences in benthic habitats were not related to local D. antillarum abundances. Macroalgae cover declined at all sites over the 6 years, ranging 586%, whereas live coral cover also decreased across all sites (ranging 438%). Diadema antillarum populations in Puerto Rico appear stable with limited evidence for recovery trends back to pre-mass mortality densities. Full population recovery may take longer than expected; however, evidence indicates that the contemporary low-density D. antillarum population represents a novel stable regime.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sea urchins, coral reefs, Caribbean, demography, phase-shift, macroalgae, population recovery
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Ling, SD (Dr Scott Ling)
ID Code:127258
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2018-07-19
Last Modified:2022-07-05

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