Macroalgal removal is a critical ecosystem function yet few studies have considered its temporal variability, especially on impacted reefs with limited herbivorous fish biodiversity. To address this, we quantified macroalgal removal and mass-standardised bite rates of herbivorous fishes monthly from July 2016 to June 2017 using a series of transplanted Sargassum ilicifolium assays and underwater video cameras on three degraded coral reefs in Singapore: Pulau Satumu, Kusu Island, and Terumbu Pempang Tengah. Our results revealed a distinct temporal pattern in macroalgal herbivory (proportion of biomass removed and mass-standardised bite rates) rates across all sites, increasing from July and decreasing from January, with the highest rates recorded in December (28.10 ± 3.05 g 3.5 h−1; 208.24 ± 29.99 mass-standardised bites 3.5 h−1) and the lowest in May (0.86 ± 0.17 g 3.5 h−1; 9.55 ± 3.19 mass-standardised bites 3.5 h−1). These coincided with the S. ilicifolium growth cycle, confirming previous evidence that herbivory rates are closely linked to macroalgal condition. Video analyses revealed nine species feeding over a year (31,839 bites; 8702.89 mass-standardised bites), with Siganus virgatus responsible for ∼ 80% of the total mass-standardised bites. Siganus virgatus took the largest proportion of bites monthly, except between April and June, when Scarus rivulatus was dominant, suggesting temporal constraints in functional roles.
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Jovena C. L. Seah, Andrew G. Bauman, and Peter A. Todd. 2021. Temporal variation in macroalgal removal: insights from an impacted equatorial coral reef system .Marine Biology , (2) . https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/1256.