Roth, Florian, Karcher, Denis B., Rädecker, Nils, Hohn, Sönke, Carvalho, Susana, Thomson, Timothy, Saalmann, Franziska, Voolstra, Christian R., Kürten, Benjamin, Struck, Ulrich, Jones, Burton H., Wild, Christian and El‐Sabaawi, Rana (2020) High rates of carbon and dinitrogen fixation suggest a critical role of benthic pioneer communities in the energy and nutrient dynamics of coral reefs. Functional Ecology, 34 (9). pp. 1991-2004. DOI

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1. Following coral mortality in tropical reefs, pioneer communities dominated by fila-mentous and crustose algae efficiently colonize substrates previously occupied by coral tissue. This phenomenon is particularly common after mass coral mortality following prolonged bleaching events associated with marine heatwaves.2. Pioneer communities play an important role for the biological succession and reorganization of reefs after disturbance. However, their significance for critical ecosystem functions previously mediated by corals, such as the efficient cycling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) within the reef, remains uncertain.3. We used 96 carbonate tiles to simulate the occurrence of bare substrates after disturbance in a coral reef of the central Red Sea. We measured rates of C and dinitrogen (N2) fixation of pioneer communities on these tiles monthly over an entire year. Coupled with elemental and stable isotope analyses, these measure-ments provide insights into macronutrient acquisition, export and the influence of seasonality.4. Pioneer communities exhibited high rates of C and N2 fixation within 4–8 weeks after the introduction of experimental bare substrates. Ranging from 13 to 25 μmol C cm−2 day−1 and 8 to 54 nmol N cm−2 day−1, respectively, C and N2 fixa-tion rates were comparable to reported values for established Red Sea coral reefs. This similarity indicates that pioneer communities may quickly compensate for the loss of benthic productivity by corals. Notably, between 40% and 85% of fixed

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Integrated Modelling > Systems Ecology
Affiliations > Not ZMT
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 0269-8463
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2022 17:19
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2022 17:19

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