Territorial damselfishes that manipulate ("farm") the algae in their territories can have a marked effect on benthic community structure and may influence coral recovery following disturbances. Despite the numerical dominance of farming species on many reefs, the importance of their grazing activities is often overlooked, with most studies only examining their roles over restricted spatial and temporal scales. We used the results of field surveys covering 9.5° of latitude of the Great Barrier Reef to describe the distribution, abundance and temporal dynamics of farmer communities. Redundancy analysis revealed unique subregional assemblages of farming species that were shaped by the combined effects of shelf position and, to a lesser extent, by latitude. These spatial patterns were largely stable through time, except when major disturbances altered the benthic community. Such disturbances affected the functional guilds of farmers in different ways. Since different guilds of farmers modify benthic community structure and affect survival of juvenile corals in different ways, these results have important implications for coral recovery following disturbances. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science