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The Easter Island ecoregion includes Rapa Nui (Easter Island; RN), with a human population of ~5600, and the uninhabited Salas y Gómez (SyG). Although the culture and terrestrial ecology of RN have been well studied, we know little about the marine environment of these islands, particularly the interplay among herbivores, algae, and corals, and how coral reef communities differ between islands, by wave energy exposure, and between depths. To address the potential roles of herbivores, wave-energy exposure, and depth on the sessile benthic communities, we examined herbivorous fish biomass, sea urchin (Diadema savignyi) density, and algal and coral cover to identify patterns and relationships among these groups. We found significant differences between islands. For example, turf and macroalgae were nearly absent from SyG, whereas D. savignyi density and Kyphosus sandwicensis biomass were ~28- and ~3-fold greater respectively at SyG. Benthic cover of coral and algae and density of D. savignyi significantly differed among levels of wave exposure, especially between wave-protected stations and semi-exposed and exposed stations. Likewise, community structure significantly differed at protected stations. Concordant patterns between herbivores and algae were observed. Therefore, herbivores and wave energy likely play important roles in structuring these benthic communities, especially for algal groups.


© CSIRO 2018. Original published version available at

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Marine and Freshwater Research





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