Friday, May 18, 2012

Coconut Trees are bad for Manta Rays - coolest Elasmobranch Paper, ever!

Dominican Republic, Punta Cana, Bavaro Beach.

Do you like the picture?
Well, think again! Coconut trees are not at all native to the Pacific and Caribbean islands where they are so ubiquitous, and must instead be considered an invasive species, with far reaching and totally counter-intuitive consequences for local biodiversity.

Case in point, the findings in this stellar new paper.
It expands the correlation between native trees and seabirds (read it!) all the way to the marine ecosystem where the replacement of the native vegetation by human propagated coconuts has an effect on Zooplankton abundance and ultimately, on the abundance of Manta Rays!

This chain is retained in less disturbed native forest but its integrity is compromised in human-altered palm forest. Bar graphs comparing processes in native (N) and palm (P) forests (mean ± SE) indicate that reductions in native tree abundance (A) reduce seabird abundance (B), which diminish the contribution of seabird derived nutrient subsidies to terrestrial ecosystems (C,D), which severely impair the movement of nutrients to the marine environment (E), reducing zooplankton abundance (F), and ultimately eliminating manta ray (Manta birostris) utilization of native forest coastlines (G). Delta values depict the difference between mean δ15N of native forest and palm forest material (Δδ15N = δ15NN − δ15NP). Positive delta values measured at multiple points along this lengthy interaction chain reveal that taxa in native forest zones are causally linked to one another via dependency upon isotopically elevated seabird derived nutrients.
Click for detail

Synopsis here.
Also, check out the linked examples of how Fishes in ponds stimulate the growth of flowers and Salmon runs impact plant diversity!
How cool is that!

Hat Tip: MPO!

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