Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

The ecological role of Holothuria scabra (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) within subtropical seagrass beds

  • Svea-Mara Wolkenhauer (a1) (a2), Sven Uthicke (a3), Charis Burridge (a4), Timothy Skewes (a2) and Roland Pitcher (a2)...
Abstract

Some sea cucumbers species are heavily exploited as bêche-de-mer for the Asian food industry and the global decline of certain highly sought after species has generated an interest in determining the ecological function of those animals within their ecosystem. This study investigated the ecological role of Holothuria scabra, a commercially valuable tropical species closely associated with seagrass beds. Seagrass productivity, seagrass and benthic microalgae (BMA) biomass and organic matter (OM) were measured during two exclusion experiments conducted using in situ cages deployed for two months both in 2003 and 2004. Density of H. scabra was manipulated in caged exclusions (near-zero density, ‘EX’), caged controls (natural densities, ‘CC’) and uncaged controls (natural density, ‘NC’). Seagrass growth was lower when holothurians were excluded (5% in 2003, 12% in 2004). Seagrass biomass decreased in all treatments, but reduction was greater in EX than in controls (18% in 2003, 21% in 2004). Both BMA biomass and OM increased in EX compared to NC/CC (in 2004). From a multivariate perspective, a principal component biplot separated EX from both types of controls in 2004, and multivariate tests based on four attributes supported this separation. These results indicate that seagrass systems may suffer in the absence of holothurians; however, the effect size varied between the two experiments, possibly because experiments were conducted at different times of the year. Nevertheless, our results suggest that holothurian over-fishing could have a negative impact on the productivity of seagrass systems.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: S.-M. Wolkenhauer, Institute for Biodiversity Research, University of Rostock, Universitätsplatz 2, 18055 Rostock, Germany email: swolkenhauer@hotmail.com
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

W.R. Birch and M. Birch (1984) Succession and pattern of tropical intertidal seagrasses in Cockle Bay, Queensland, Australia: a decade of observations. Aquatic Botany 19, 343367.

P.I. Boon (1986) Nitrogen pools in seagrass beds of Cymodocea serrulata and Zostera capricorni of Moreton Bay. Aquatic Botany 25, 119.

F.C. Coleman and S.L. Williams (2002) Overexploiting marine ecosystem engineers: potential consequences for biodiversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17, 4044.

W.F. de Boer (2000) Biomass dynamics of seagrasses and the role of mangrove and seagrass vegetation as different nutrient sources for an intertidal ecosystem. Aquatic Botany 66, 225239.

V.N. de Jonge and J. van den Bergs (1987) Experiments on the resuspension of estuarine sediments containing benthic diatoms. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 24, 725740.

S. Enriquez (2005) Light absorption efficiency and the package effect in the leaves of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum. Marine Ecology Progress Series 289, 141150.

J.-F. Hamel , C. Conand , D.L. Paeson and A. Mercier (2001) The sea cucumber Holothuria scabra (Holothuroidea: Echinodermata): its biology and exploitation as bêche-de-mer. Advances in Marine Biology 41, 129223.

K.L. Heck and J.F. Valentine (2007) The primacy of top-down effects in shallow benthic ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts 30, 371381.

A.R. Hughes , K.J. Bando , L.F. Rodriguez and S.L. Williams (2004) Relative effects of grazers and nutrients on seagrasses: a meta-analysis approach. Marine Ecology Progress Series 282, 8799.

D.W. Klumpp and S.N. Kwak (2005) Composition and abundance of benthic macrofauna of a tropical sea-grass bed in North Queensland, Australia. Pacific Science 59, 541560.

J.M. Lanyon and H. Marsh (1995) Temporal changes in the abundance of some tropical intertidal seagrasses in North Queensland. Aquatic Botany 49, 217237.

N. Marbà , J. Cebrián , S. Enríquez and C.M. Duarte (1996) Growth patterns of West Mediterranean seagrasses: species-specific responses to seasonal forcing. Marine Ecology Progress Series 133, 203215.

A. Mercier , S.C. Battaglene and J.-F. Hamel (2000a) Settlement preferences and early migration of the tropical sea cucumber Holothuria scabra. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 249, 89110.

D.J.W. Moriarty , P.C. Pollard , W.G. Hunt , C.M. Moriarty and T.J. Wassenberg (1985) Productivity of bacteria and microalgae and the effect of grazing by holothurians in sediments on a coral reef flat. Marine Biology 85, 293300.

M. Nakaoka (2005) Plant–animal interaction in seagrass beds: ongoing and future challenges for understanding population and community dynamics. Population Ecology 47, 167177.

T.R. Parsons , Y. Maita and C.M. Lalli (1984) A manual of chemical and biological methods for seawater analysis. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

M.J. Tegner and P.K. Dayton (1999) Ecosystem effects of fishing. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 14, 261262.

J.W. Udy and W.C. Dennison (1997) Growth and physiological response of three seagrass species to elevated sediment nutrients in Moreton Bay, Australia. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 217, 253277.

S. Uthicke (2001a) Interactions between sediment-feeders and microalgae on coral reefs: grazing losses versus production enhancement. Marine Ecology Progress Series 210, 125138.

S. Uthicke (2001b) Nutrient regeneration by abundant coral reef holothurians. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 265, 153170.

S. Uthicke and D.W. Klumpp (1998) Microphytobenthos community production at a near-shore coral reef: seasonal variation and response to ammonium recycled by holothurians. Marine Ecology Progress Series 169, 111.

S. Uthicke and J.A.H. Benzie (2000) Allozyme electrophoresis indicates high gene flow between populations of Holothuria (Microthele) nobilis (Holothuroidea: Aspidochirotida) on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology 137, 819825.

N. Zavodnik , A. Travizi and S. De Rosa (1998) Seasonal variations in the rate of photosynthetic activity and chemical composition of the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa (Ucr.) Asch. Scientia Marina 62, 301309.

J.C. Zieman (1974) Methods for the study of the growth and production of turtle grass, Thalassia testudinum König. Aquaculture 4, 139143.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 343 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.