Effects of depth and ultraviolet radiation on coral reef turf algae.
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.