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Fishing weakens a positive link between herbivore abundance and plant growth in tropical seagrass beds
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3973-1703
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Herbivory is a key process influencing the structure and function of both terrestrial and aquatic systems. In seagrass ecosystems, moderate levels of herbivory may stimulate plant growth, compensating for the loss of eaten tissue. However, the relationship between herbivory and seagrass growth can be influenced by an array of factors, such as seasonality, herbivore abundance, and presence of epiphytes, many of which can be directly or indirectly affected by human activities like fishing. Here, we used data from a multi-season field survey in fished and protected seagrass beds to assess how fishing and seasonality affect the link between herbivores, herbivory, and plant growth in seagrasses. Path analyses revealed an interactive effect of seasonality and protection. In protected seagrass beds, seasonally high herbivore abundance positively affected herbivory rates, which in turn enhanced seagrass growth. This link was however not apparent in seagrass beds subjected to fishing activities. At the same time, seasonality effects seemed stronger in fished areas, suggesting that in addition to weakening a positive herbivory-plant growth interaction, fishing increases temporal instability of ecosystems. Our results highlight the need for evaluating not only the direct effects of fisheries exploitation on fish populations, but also the potential indirect effects on ecosystems, to improve fisheries management.

National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-154965OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-154965DiVA, id: diva2:1196074
Available from: 2018-04-09 Created: 2018-04-09 Last updated: 2018-04-10Bibliographically approved
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Alonso Aller, ElisaEklöf, Johan S.
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