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Temporal dynamics and persistence of sponge assemblages in a Central Pacific atoll lagoon

TitleTemporal dynamics and persistence of sponge assemblages in a Central Pacific atoll lagoon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsKnapp ISS, Williams GJ, Bell JJ
JournalMarine Ecology-an Evolutionary Perspective
Date Published2016/10
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0173-9565
Accession NumberWOS:000385831800019
Keywordsabundance; Atoll; communities; coral reef; coral-reefs; diversity; french-polynesia; islands; Lagoon; marine sponges; Pacific Ocean; phase shift; Sponge; states

Sponges are important components of coral reef fauna, although little is known of their temporal dynamics. Sponges dominate the lagoon system at Palmyra Atoll in the Central Pacific, which may not be its natural state. Here we examined the temporal variability and recruitment rates of these sponge assemblages to determine if they are stable and examined the evidence that a recent transition has occurred from a coral- to sponge-dominated system. We found 24 sponge species in permanent quadrats in the lagoon between 2009 and 2011, and 11 species on our recruitment panels. The sponge assemblage composition and abundance did not vary significantly between years and appear stable. Many sponge recruits were found in both years that the panels were examined although higher rates were recorded in the second year of the study. While it seems very possible that a change to a sponge-dominated lagoon is associated with declining environmental quality at Palmyra as a result of modifications over 70 years ago, without pre-modification data on reef assemblage composition this remains speculative. Our observations of short-term temporal stability in the sponge assemblages at Palmyra highlight the potential for sponge-dominated reef states to be maintained in degraded reef environments that are seemingly unsuitable for coral survival.

Short TitleMar. Ecol.-Evol. Persp.
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