Succession and growth rates of encrusting crustose coralline algae (Rhodophyta, Cryptonemiales) in the upper fore-reef environment off Ishigaki Island, Ryukyu Islands
Observations were made on the succession and growth rates of crustose coralline algae growing in situ on artificial substrata in a shallow fore-reef environment on Ishigaki Island, Ryukyu Islands. Succession in well-illuminated environments manifests itself as a gradual replacement of species having very thin thalli by those having larger and thicker thalli. The species Porolithon onkodes, Paragoniolithon conicum and Lithophyllum insipidum achieved dominance by competitive interactions of overgrowing margins. The thicker species recruit quickly (within the first few months), but because of their slow growth rate do not displace the pioneer species that have very thin thalli until after the latter begin to die. Regardless of seasonal temperature fluctuations, which exceed 10 °C, the coralline algal succession is the same for each season. The maximum lateral growth rates of the major species range between 2.9 and 3.9 mm/month. Vertical growth rates of Porolithon onkodes, the thickest species, are the most rapid (more than 2 mm/year at maximum) relative to those of other species. Accretion rates of entire coralline algal cover on ungrazed substrata range from 1.0 to 1.2 mm/year (not allowing any lag time for recruitment), whereas those of grazed substrata are lower. These results are consistent with species which are ecological equivalents and live in similar environments on Caribbean reefs.