Published November 4, 2019 | Version v1
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Data from: Overwintering tropical herbivores accelerate detritus production on temperate reefs

  • 1. University of Western Australia


The tropicalization of temperate marine ecosystems can lead to increased herbivory rates, reducing the standing stock of seaweeds and potentially causing increases in detritus production. However, long-term studies analyzing these processes associated with the persistence of tropical herbivores in temperate reefs are lacking. We assessed the seasonal variation in abundances, macrophyte consumption, feeding modes and defecation rates of the range-extending tropical rabbitfish Siganus fuscescens and the temperate silver drummer Kyphosus sydneyanus and herring cale Olisthops cyanomelas on tropicalized reefs of Western Australia. Rabbitfish overwintered in temperate reefs, consumed more kelp and other macrophytes in all feeding modes and defecated more during both summer and winter than the temperate herbivores. Herbivory and defecation increased with rabbitfish abundance but this was dependent on temperature, with higher rates attained by big schools during summer and lower rates in winter. Still, rabbitfish surpassed temperate herbivores, leading to a five-fold acceleration in the transformation of macrophyte standing stock to detritus, a function usually attributed to sea urchins in kelp forests. Our results suggest that further warming and tropicalization will not only increase primary consumption and affect the habitat structure of temperate reefs but also increase detritus production, with the potential to modify energy pathways.


Funding provided by: Australian Research Council
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: DP170100023

Funding provided by: Hermon Slade Foundation
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: HSF13-13

Funding provided by: Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: RA/1/411/101


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