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Title

Green turtle herbivory dominates the fate of seagrass primary production in the Lakshadweep islands (Indian Ocean)

AuthorsKelkar, Nachiket; Rohan, Arthur; Marbà, Núria ; Alcoverro, Teresa
KeywordsFate of seagrass production
Herbivory pathway
Thalassia hemprichii
Cymodocea rotundata
Lakshadweep islands
Issue Date27-Jun-2013
PublisherInter Research
CitationMarine Ecology Progress Series 485 ; 235-243 (2013)
AbstractHistorical global declines of megaherbivores from marine ecosystems have hitherto contributed to an understanding of seagrass meadow production dominated by detrital pathways— a paradigm increasingly being questioned by recent re-evaluations of the importance of herbivory. Recoveries in green turtle populations at some locations provide an ideal opportunity to examine effects of high megaherbivore densities on the fate of seagrass production. We conducted direct field measurements of aboveground herbivory and shoot elongation rates in 9 seagrass meadows across 3 atolls in the Lakshadweep Archipelago (India) representing a gradient of green turtle densities. Across all meadows, green turtles consumed an average of 60% of the total leaf growth. As expected, herbivory rates were positively related to turtle density and ranged from being almost absent in meadows with few turtles, to potentially overgrazed meadows (ca. 170% of leaf growth) where turtles were abundant. Turtle herbivory also substantially reduced shoot elongation rates. Simulated grazing through clipping experiments confirmed this trend: growth rates rapidly declined to almost half in clipped plots relative to control plots. At green turtle densities similar to historical estimates, herbivory not only dominated the fate of seagrass primary production but also drastically reduced production rates in grazed meadows. Intensive turtle grazing and associated movement could also modify rates of detrital cycling, leaf export and local carbon burial, with important consequences for the entire seascape.
Description9 páginas, 5 figuras, 1 tabla.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/meps10406
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/93304
DOI10.3354/meps10406
ISSN0171-8630
E-ISSN1616-1599
Appears in Collections:(CEAB) Artículos
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