Data from: A 3,000 year record of Caribbean reef urchin communities reveals causes and consequences of long-term decline in Diadema antillarum
Cramer, Katie L., Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
O'Dea, Aaron, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Carpenter, Carolina, University of California, San Diego
Norris, Richard D., University of California, San Diego
Published Mar 31, 2017 on Dryad.
Cite this dataset
Cramer, Katie L.; O'Dea, Aaron; Carpenter, Carolina; Norris, Richard D. (2017). Data from: A 3,000 year record of Caribbean reef urchin communities reveals causes and consequences of long-term decline in Diadema antillarum [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.rs6h2
Urchins are the last abundant grazers of macroalgae on most Caribbean reefs following the historical overexploitation of herbivorous fishes. The long-spined urchin Diadema antillarum was particularly effective at controlling macroalgae and facilitating coral dominance on Caribbean reefs until its ecological extinction from a catastrophic disease epidemic in the early 1980s. Despite their important role in the structure and functioning of Caribbean reef ecosystems, the natural dynamics of Caribbean reef urchin communities are poorly known due to the paucity of ecological survey data prior to large-scale human disturbances and the Diadema dieoff. To help resolve the baseline abundances and ecological roles of common urchin taxa, we track changes in urchin abundance and composition over the past 3,000 years from analysis of subfossil urchin spines preserved in reef matrix cores collected in Caribbean Panama. Echinometra consistently dominated the subfossil spine assemblage, while Diadema was consistently rare in the subfossil record in this region. Rather than increasing during a period of heightened human exploitation of their fish competitors and predators, Diadema began declining over a millennium ago. Convergent cross mapping (CCM) causality analyses reveal that Diadema abundance is causally related to coral community composition. Diadema is negatively affected by Acropora cervicornis dominance, likely due to the tight association between this coral and the threespot damselfish, an effective Diadema competitor. Conversely, Diadema positively affects the abundance of the coral Madracis mirabilis, possibly via its control of macroalgae. Causal relationships were not detected among abundances of individual urchin taxa, indicating that inter-specific echinoid competition is not a factor limiting Diadema recovery. Our detailed record of prehistorical and historical urchin community dynamics suggests that the failure of Diadema to recover over 30 years after its mass mortality event may be due in part to the prey release of damselfish following the long-term overfishing of piscivorous fishes.
Urchin and coral fossil data from reef cores
Contains absolute abundances of urchin and coral fossil data (by species) within each sample for each of four reef sediment cores. Samples are 5cm slices of each core. For urchin species, corrected abundances can be computed by dividing urchin spine weight by weight of 500um-2mm sediment size fraction. For coral species, relative abundances can be computed by dividing coral skeletal weight by total coral weight.