Experimental analysis of the effects of consumer exclusion on recruitment and succession of a coral reef system along a water quality gradient in the Spermonde Archipelago, Indonesia

Jeremiah Grahm Plass-Johnson, Jasmin P. Heiden, Nur Abu, Muhammad Lukman, Mirta Teichberg

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The composition of coral reef benthic communities is strongly affected by variation in water quality and consumer abundance and composition. This is particularly evident in highly populated coastal regions where humans depend on coral reef resources and where terrestrial run-off can change the chemical composition of the water. We tested the effects of grazing pressure and ambient water conditions along an established eutrophication gradient on the recruitment and successional development of benthic communities of the Spermonde Archipelago, Indonesia, through caging experiments with settlement tiles. Within 1 month, benthic community composition of the closest reef to land, near the city of Makassar, was significantly different from other sites further offshore, driven primarily by differences in recruitment of invertebrates or turf algae. In contrast to other caging experiments, consumer exclusion had no effect after 3 months, suggesting that larger, mobile consumers had little effect on the benthic communities of these reefs at all sites. Despite conditions that usually favour macroalgal development, this group was rarely observed on recruitment tiles even after 4 months of consumer exclusion. Furthermore, tiles from both the caged and open treatments retained high proportions of open space indicating the possible role of small-sized or non-fish consumers that were not excluded from the experiment. These results indicate that, unlike many other studies, benthic consumers in the Spermonde Archipelago had little effect on the recruitment and early succession of the reef habitat and that unexamined biota such as mesograzers may be significant in degraded systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)229-243
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquatic Science
  • Caging experiment
  • Eutrophication
  • Herbivory
  • Macroalgae
  • Succession
  • Turf algae
  • algae
  • Anthozoa
  • Invertebrata
  • Ecology: environmental biology - Plant
  • Ecology: environmental biology - Oceanography
  • Public health - Air, water and soil pollution
  • Phytopathology - Nonparasitic diseases
  • Algae, Microorganisms, Nonvascular Plants, Plants
  • Animals, Chordates, Humans, Mammals, Primates, Vertebrates
  • eutrophication
  • herbivory
  • reef habitat
  • water quality gradient
  • consumer exclusion
  • Life Sciences
  • Freshwater & Marine Ecology
  • Oceanography
  • SC3

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