The global trend of unprecedented losses in coral reefs is particularly striking in the Caribbean, where dense algal assemblages are commonly replacing corals. So far, hardly anything is known about the ecology of the dominant algal groups. The present study compiled records of Chlorophytes from nine studies in the shallow reefs of Curaçao in the years preceding the onset of coral reef decline (1908–1978) and compared them with records from three recent (2007–2009) expeditions conducted at the same and nearby study locations along the south-west coast of the island. A total of 107 species were encountered, including seven new records for Curaçao (Anadyomene saldanhae, Bryopsis hypnoides, Chaetomorpha minima, Derbesia fastigiata, Ulva flexuosa subsp. paradoxa, Ulvella scutata and Ulvella lens). Sampled material revealed a higher species number during the dry seasons than during the wet seasons, indicating a seasonal variation in algal growth. Most species grew on hard substratum or were epibiotic, and 13 species were found growing on more than one substratum. Comparisons with earlier studies suggest an extension in depth range for nine species. The present work provides a comprehensive overview of the distribution of Chlorophytes of the island and can serve as an important baseline for further research on coral reef ecosystem changes.
Despite the increasing dominance of turf algae in coral reefs, few studies have investigated their physiological and ecological responses to changes in abiotic factors. We tested the effects of depth and ultraviolet radiation on turf algae at different levels of successional stages using two experiments. Depth-related differences were found for all turf algal communities, characterized by a higher amount of the cyanobacteria taxonDichothrix and the red filamentous genera Poly-/Herposiphonia in the shallow and the appearance of oscillating cyanobacteria in deeper waters. In the first experiment, cross-depth transplantation of 153 days old communities influenced percentage cover, biomass and taxa composition. Downward transplantation lowered overall biomass and abundance of the foraminifera Sorites, whereas the crustose green alga Pringsheimiellaand filamentous cyanobacteria colonized the communities. A nearly reverse pattern was observed in upward transplanted communities. Overall we distinguished between sensitive taxa, like Oscillatoria, and taxa able to acclimate to alterations in their environment, like Pringsheimiella, Poly/Herposiphonia and Dichothrix. In the second experiment, algae grown for 285 days at 5 m were exposed together with a set of sterile settlement tiles to three UVR regimes at 2 m for 22 days. UVR had no effect on turf algal communities regardless of successional stage. This study highlights the presence of high light and UV tolerant species. The high UV tolerance of turf communities may confer a competitive advantage over other more sensitive coral reef biota, such as corals. This study demonstrates that turf algae are dynamic communities exhibiting species-specific resistance to environmental changes.