Robert S. Steneck's research while affiliated with University of Maine and other places

Publications (184)

Article
Complex ecological interactions are widely utilized to deliver conservation benefits but their efficacy is often debated. Using a coral reef trophic cascade as an example, we reveal that outcomes can be surprisingly difficult to detect. Even important impacts of marine reserves can go undetected (20% more coral with power < 0.5). This evidentiary c...
Article
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Globally, wild decapod crustacean fisheries are growing faster than fisheries of any other major group, yet little attention has been given to the benefits, costs, and risks of this shift. We examined more than 60 years of global fisheries landings data to evaluate the socioeconomic and ecological implications of the compositional change in global...
Article
Coralline red algae in the non-geniculate genera Clathromorphum, Phymatolithon and Lithothamnion are important benthic ecosystem engineers in the photic zone of the Arctic and Subarctic. In these regions, the systematics and biogeography of Clathromorphum and Phymatolithon have mostly been resolved whereas Lithothamnion has not, until now. Seventy-...
Article
By 2004, Belize was exhibiting classic fishing down of the food web. Groupers (Serranidae) and snappers (Lutjanidae) were scarce and fisheries turned to parrotfishes (Scarinae), leading to a 41% decline in their biomass. Several policies were enacted in 2009-2010, including a moratorium on fishing parrotfish and a new marine park with no-take areas...
Article
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Maintaining coral reef ecosystems is a social imperative, be cause so many people depend on coral reefs for food production, shoreline protection, and livelihoods. The survival of reefs this century, however, is threatened by the mounting effects of climate change. Climate mitigation is the foremost and essential action to prevent coral reef ecosys...
Article
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Coral recruitment is important in sustaining coral reef ecosystems and contributing to their recovery after disturbances. Despite widespread acceptance that crustose coralline algae (CCA) positively influence coral recruitment success, especially by enhancing coral settlement and early post-settlement stages, there are no experimental data on the e...
Article
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Meesters et al. (2020) raised concerns about the methodology used and conclusions drawn in our recent paper (Steneck et al., 2019). Specifically, they identified two overarching problems: (1) that our methods result in an inflated estimate of coral cover, and (2) as a result, one might infer that no extra management is needed. Neither concern is le...
Article
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Predator loss and climate change are hallmarks of the Anthropocene yet their interactive effects are largely unknown. Here, we show that massive calcareous reefs, built slowly by the alga Clathromorphum nereostratum over centuries to millennia, are now declining because of the emerging interplay between these two processes. Such reefs, the structur...
Chapter
Regular sea urchins may be the single most important consumer affecting shallow marine communities worldwide. Vast sea grass beds and kelp forests have been denuded by foraging aggregations of sea urchins resulting in loss of habitat, food, and changes to the physical environment. On coral reefs, sea urchins shift algal communities from fleshy alga...
Article
Steneck and Pauly present an historical account of the growth of the fishing industry and an update on the status of fish populations today, using several case studies to highlight the complex and profound effects that fishing has on marine ecosystems.
Article
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Ocean warming can drive poleward shifts of commercially important species with potentially significant economic impacts. Nowhere are those impacts greater than in the Gulf of Maine where North America's most valuable marine species, the American lobster (Homarus americanus Milne Edwards), has thrived for decades. However, concerns are growing as mo...
Chapter
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Several floristic studies on macroalgae of Svalbard have been published, but as access to the archipelago is difficult, these studies are scattered and often only cover single sites and habitats. Kongsfjorden, Isfjorden and Hornsund are the three most comprehensively investigated areas, and most of the species information comes from these three fjo...
Article
Coral reefs are among the world's most endangered ecosystems. Coral mortality can result from ocean warming or other climate-related events such as coral bleaching and intense hurricanes. While resilient coral reefs can recover from these impacts as has been documented in coral reefs throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific, no similar reef-wide recove...
Article
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There is now a general consensus that biodiversity positively affects ecosystem functioning. This consensus, however, stems largely from small-scale experiments, raising the question of whether diversity effects operate at multiple spatial scales and flow on to affect ecosystem structure in nature. Here, we quantified rates of fish herbivory on alg...
Presentation
Talk at the Norwegian Association of Marine Scientists annual meeting in Tromsø, Norway.
Article
Recent species recoveries following historical depletion have been widely celebrated as conservation success stories. However, the recovery of highly interactive species, particularly predators, generates new management challenges that arise from their potential for wide‐ranging effects on local ecosystems and their poorly understood ecology. In ma...
Article
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Coralline algae form extensive maerl and rhodolith habitats that support a rich biodiversity. Calcium carbonate harvesting as well as trawling activities threatens this ecosystem. Eleven species were recorded so far as maerl-forming in NE Atlantic, but identification based on morphological characters is unreliable. As for most red algae, we now use...
Article
Notionally herbivorous fishes maintains a critical ecosystem function on coral reefs by grazing algae and maintaining highly productive algal turf assemblages. Current paradigms implicate habitat complexity, predation, and primary productivity as major drivers of the distribution and abundance of herbivorous fish, yet little is known about the rela...
Article
Some of the fundamental drivers of reef functioning are being rewritten through progress in understanding nutrient cycling. The sponge loop, described in 2013, revealed that some cryptic sponges can convert dissolved organic carbon (DOC) into detritus. In subsequent studies, researchers proposed that sponges and seaweeds could mutually reinforce th...
Presentation
Full-text available
The CoralAlg-project, funded by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Center, aims at assessing the coralline species diversity of maerl beds along the Norwegian coast. Toward this goal, molecular systematic methods were used along with traditional morphological studies for species identification. Corallines typically show high levels of morpholog...
Conference Paper
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Los arrecifes coralinos del Caribe han sufrido la pérdida masiva de corales desde principios de los años 80 debido a una variedad de impactos humanos (Jackson et al, 2014). República Dominicana posee arrecifes de coral en casi toda su extensión. El 80 por ciento de su población vive y depende económicamente de la zona costera, donde ofrece servicio...
Article
Sea-level rise (SLR) is predicted to elevate water depths above coral reefs and to increase coastal wave exposure as ecological degradation limits vertical reef growth, but projections lack data on interactions between local rates of reef growth and sea level rise. Here we calculate the vertical growth potential of more than 200 tropical western At...
Article
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Managing diverse ecosystems is challenging because structuring drivers are often processes having diffuse impacts that attenuate from the people who were “managed” to the expected ecosystem-wide outcome. Coral reef fishes targeted for management only indirectly link to the ecosystem’s foundation (reef corals). Three successively weakening interacti...
Article
The potential of crustose coralline algae as high-resolution archives of past ocean variability in mid- to high-latitudes has only recently been recognized. Few comparisons of coralline algal proxies, such as temperature-dependent algal magnesium to calcium (Mg/Ca) ratios, with in situ-measured surface ocean data exist, even rarer are well replicat...
Article
Herbivory occurs when animals consume plants; but the term hides two fundamentally different processes. One relates to the animal’s nutrition, the other to the plant’s survival and abundance. Both are central to the ecological process called herbivory. Evolutionary innovations in herbivore function have shaped shallow marine ecosystems from kelp fo...
Conference Paper
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Overexploitation plagues common property marine resources in a seemingly endless replay of the tragedy of the commons. Territorial use rights in fisheries (TURFs) counter this by controlling access and reducing incentives to compete for larger shares of the resource. Two lobster TURF systems evolved convergently in Maine, USA, and Juan Fernandez Is...
Conference Paper
Antigua's coral reefs are among the most degraded in the Caribbean region, having low coral cover, few herbivores, and abundant harmful macroalgae. Low fish biomass suggests overfishing may contribute to degradation and lack of recovery to a coral-dominated state. However, coral reefs declined so long ago that most stakeholders have never seen a he...
Article
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Marine spatial planning (MSP) should assist managers in guiding human activities towards sustainable practices and in minimizing user-conflicts in our oceans. A necessary first step is to quantify spatial patterns of marine assemblages in order to understand the ecosystem’s structure, function, and services. However, the large spatial scale, high e...
Article
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Coral reefs are subjected globally to a variety of natural and anthropogenic stressors that often act synergistically. Today, reversing ongoing and future coral reef degradation presents significant challenges and countering this negative trend will take considerable efforts and investments. Scientific knowledge can inform and guide the requisite d...
Article
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A single ecosystem can exhibit great biogeographic and environmental variability. While a given ecological driver might have a strong impact in one region, it does not necessarily hold that its importance will extend elsewhere. Coral reefs provide a striking example in that coral communities have low resilience in the Atlantic and remarkable resili...
Article
Full-text available
Coral reefs are subjected globally to a variety of natural and anthropogenic stressors that often act synergistically. Today, reversing ongoing and future coral reef degradation presents significant challenges and countering this negative trend will take considerable efforts and investments. Scientific knowledge can inform and guide the requisite d...
Article
Full-text available
Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are major benthic calcifiers that play crucial roles in marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs. Over the past two decades, epizootics have been reported for several CCA species on coral reefs worldwide. However, their causes remain often unknown in part because few studies have investigated CCA pathologies at a m...
Article
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The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are important contributors to reef calcium carbonate and can facilitate coral recruitment. Despite the importance of CCA, little is known about species-level distribution, abundance, and diversity, and how these vary across the continental shelf...
Article
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While positive interactions have been observed to influence patterns of recruitment and succession in marine and terrestrial plant communities, the role of facilitation in macroalgal phase shifts is relatively unknown. In December 2012, typhoon Bopha caused catastrophic losses of corals on the eastern reefs of Palau. Within weeks of the typhoon, an...
Article
No records exist to evaluate long-term pH dynamics in high-latitude oceans, which have the greatest probability of rapid acidification from anthropogenic CO2 emissions. We reconstructed both seasonal variability and anthropogenic change in seawater pH and temperature by using laser ablation high-resolution 2D images of stable boron isotopes (δ11B)...
Data
Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are potentially affecting marine ecosystems twofold, by warming and acidification. The rising amount of CO2 taken up by the ocean lowers the saturation state of calcium carbonate, complicating the formation of this key biomineral used by many marine organisms to build hard parts like skeletons or shells. Re...
Article
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Coral cover has declined rapidly on Caribbean reefs since the early 1980s, reducing carbonate production and reef growth. Using a cross-regional dataset, we show that widespread reductions in bioerosion rates-a key carbonate cycling process-have accompanied carbonate production declines. Bioerosion by parrotfish, urchins, endolithic sponges and mic...
Article
Coral cover on Caribbean reefs has declined rapidly since the early 1980's. Diseases have been a major driver, decimating communities of framework building Acropora and Orbicella coral species, and reportedly leading to the emergence of novel coral assemblages often dominated by domed and plating species of the genera Agaricia, Porites and Siderast...
Article
Higher latitude oceanic and climatic reconstructions are needed to distinguish natural climate variability from anthropogenic warming in regions projected to experience significant increases in temperature during this century. Clathromorphum nereostratum is a long-lived coralline alga abundant along the Aleutian archipelago that records seasonal to...
Article
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Dominance shifts in ecosystems can occur rapidly, resulting in alternative stable states. While some coral reef ecosystems shift and recover relatively quickly, others recover slowly or not at all over periods of centuries. We explore the role of large (fishing-susceptible) parrotfish in triggering algal phase shifts as alternative attractors that...
Article
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The 1997/1998 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was the most severe coral bleaching event in recent history, resulting in the loss of 16 % of the world’s coral reefs. Mortality was particularly severe in French Polynesia, where unprecedented mortality of massive Porites was observed in lagoonal sites of Rangiroa Atoll. To assess the recovery of m...
Article
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Distribution and abundance of coral diseases have been well documented, but only a few studies considered diseases affecting crustose coralline algae (CCA), particularly at the species level. We investigated the spatiotemporal dynamics of diseases affecting CCA along the south coast of Curaçao, southern Caribbean. Two syndromes were detected: the C...
Chapter
Sea urchins may be the single most important consumer affecting shallow marine communities worldwide. Vast seagrass beds and kelp forests have been denuded by foraging aggregations of sea urchins resulting in loss of habitat, food and changes to the physical environment. On coral reefs, sea urchins shift algal communities from fleshy algae, hostile...
Article
Full-text available
Overfishing and environmental change have triggered many severe and unexpected consequences. As existing communities have collapsed, new ones have become established, fundamentally transforming ecosystems to those that are often less productive for fisheries, more prone to cycles of booms and busts, and thus less manageable. We contend that the fai...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We address gaps in the Northeast Region's capability to observe key biotic and abiotic ecosystem variables that are likely impacted by climate forcing. The need to observe effects of shorter-term and longer term climate and ocean variability on coastal ecosystems is especially acute in the Northeast, where water column temperatures have been rising...
Article
Synthesis Coral reefs are widely thought to exhibit multiple attractors which have profound implications for people that depend on them. If reefs become ‘stuck’ within a self-reinforcing state dominated by seaweed, it becomes disproportionately difficult and expensive for managers to shift the system back towards its natural, productive, coral stat...
Article
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Scuba provides scientists with the capacity for direct observation and experimental manipulation in underwater research. Technology allows broader-scale observations and measure-ments such as satellite detection of coral bleaching up to a global scale and LIDAR determination of reef-wide topographic complexity on landscape to regional scales. Scuba...
Article
Settlement specificity can regulate recruitment but remains poorly understood for coral larvae. We studied larvae of the corals, Acropora palmata and Montastraea faveolata, to determine their rates of settlement and metamorphosis in the presence of ten species of red algae, including eight species of crustose coralline algae, one geniculated corall...
Article
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A process-orientated understanding of ecosystems usually starts with an exploratory analysis of empirical relationships among potential drivers and state variables. While relationships among herbivory, algal cover, and coral recruitment, have been explored in the Caribbean, the nature of such relationships in the Pacific appears to be variable or u...
Data
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Supplementary Tables S1-S3 and Supplementary Methods.
Article
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Global-scale deteriorations in coral reef health have caused major shifts in species composition. One projected consequence is a lowering of reef carbonate production rates, potentially impairing reef growth, compromising ecosystem functionality and ultimately leading to net reef erosion. Here, using measures of gross and net carbonate production a...
Article
Species interactions are best seen and understood through perturbations of the species themselves. These perturbations can be accomplished on small scales through controlled manipulations, but they sometimes happen on larger scales through more fortuitous contrasts over space or time. We used similarities and differences between the North Atlantic...
Chapter
Earth's biodiversity is distributed among a surprisingly few functionally different organisms. These "functional groups" are suites of species that play equivalent roles in natural communities and ecosystems. They result from convergent evolution which is channeled by phyletic constraints that limit the variations possible on a given body plan rela...
Article
Ecosystems can "flip" and, as a result of reinforcing feedback mechanisms, "lock" into alternative stable states. We studied this process in a kelp-forest ecosystem in Maine, USA, for nearly four decades and found two stable states: one dominated by green sea urchins and crustose coralline algae and the other by erect fleshy macroalgae. Herbivory b...