Schiettekatte, Nina M. D., Casey, Jordan M., Brandl, Simon J., Mercière, Alexandre, Degregori, Sam, Burkepile, Deron, Van Wert, Jacey C., Ghilardi, Mattia ORCID:, Villéger, Sébastien and Parravicini, Valeriano (2023) The role of fish feces for nutrient cycling on coral reefs. Oikos . DOI

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Consumers play an important role in biogeochemical cycles through the consumption and release of essential elements such as carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P). Indeed, a large proportion of consumed elements are released into the environment in inorganic (i.e. excretion) or organic form (i.e. egestion). On coral reefs, fishes represent the bulk of consumer biomass and thus play a key role in the recycling of nutrients. In recent years, excretion rates have been studied intensively, but less is known about the rate and quality of coral reef fish egestion. In this study, we quantify the elemental contents of fish feces, estimate absorption efficiencies and compare egestion and excretion rates for 51 coral reef fish species. We show that elemental concentrations decrease remarkably little from food to feces. This is due to extremely low absorption efficiencies, resulting in the egestion of large amounts of energy and nutrients. Moreover, we show that while the quality of fish feces varies across trophic guilds, it remains highly variable within trophic guilds. Finally, we demonstrate that the release of N and P through egestion outweighs the amount of nutrients recycled through excretion. Our study highlights the need to incorporate animal egestion into assessments of ecosystem functioning and food web structure.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA2
Research affiliation: Ecology > Reef Systems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 0030-1299
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2023 14:24
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2023 14:24

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