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A dynamical model of the coral-algae competition in a coral reef ecosystem

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coral reef ecosystems, coral-algae interaction, equilibrium, dynamical systems, nullclines, competitive ecosystem

Abstract (summary)

A coral reef system is a biodiverse ecosystem in which coral is in mutual competitive partnership with algae. The survival of coral in this competition with algae is vital for the well-being of any coral reef ecosystem. In ideal conditions, the coral mass concentration and algae mass concentration are in a stable equilibrium. However, in practice, it is not always the case due to numerous factors of natural and anthropogenic origin. It is not easy to take into account all these factors when studying the question of survival of the reef ecosystem. We propose a dynamical system that describes the competition between coral and algae and contains terms that describe two major features inherent in this competition. The first one is the accelerated growth of algae when the amount of the turf algae exceeds a certain threshold, and it transforms into macroalgae, which grows much faster and has a detrimental effect on the corals. The second feature is associated with the grazing of the herbivory and other marine life on corals and algae. We apply both analytical and numerical techniques to study the system to find out what kind of equilibria such a system may exhibit. The results of our analysis show that although the boost in the growth of algae may devastate the corals, the latter may still survive if the algae are also subject to sufficiently intense grazing.

Publication Information

Bica, I., & Solomonovich, M. (2020). A dynamical model of the coral-algae competition in a coral reef ecosystem. Theoretical and Applied Ecology, 3, 29-35.


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