Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Interactions between water motion, primary productivity, and herbivory are complex. Rates of grazing by fish on tropical coral reefs and by sea urchins on temperate rocky reefs are usually high, but can be low in areas of extreme water motion. Some herbivores can switch between mobile (grazing) and sedentary (drift-feeding) behaviours, and this can be influenced by water motion. We compared the relative consumption of the kelp Ecklonia radiata at rocky reefs in western Australia with different wave exposures (inshore versus offshore). No herbivory was recorded offshore, suggesting that wave exposure might inhibit herbivory. We also compared grazing by fish and sea urchins, and grazing versus drift-feeding pathways. Grazing by fish and sea urchins was low, except at one inshore reef where grazing by fish was intense. In contrast, drift-feeding by sea urchins was recorded at all inshore reefs, suggesting that this is a ubiquitous behaviour in the region. We measured productivity of E. radiata to determine if spatial patterns in rates of herbivory matched those of productivity. Productivity of E. radiata was higher on offshore reefs at one location. The observed difference in consumption between inshore and offshore reefs at both locations suggests that consumption is not limited by productivity, but by exposure. Further, the high productivity offshore combined with low rates of herbivory suggest that offshore reefs might be a source of kelp that subsidises other habitats.