Fish-mediated nutrient flows from macroalgae habitats to coral reefs in the Red Sea

Aislinn F. Dunne*, Matthew D. Tietbohl, Clara Nuber, Michael Berumen, Burton H. Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Macroalgae canopies are common in tropical coastlines, and can be feeding grounds for coral reef fishes. We investigated whether fish transfer algal material from Sargassum-dominated macroalgae habitats to coral reefs by collecting gut contents of two herbivorous fish species (Naso elegans and N. unicornis) from coral reefs in the central Red Sea. On inshore reefs close to macroalgae canopies, Sargassum accounted for up to 41% of these species’ gut contents while almost no Sargassum was found in the stomachs of fish on offshore reefs farther from macroalgae canopies. Using consumption and excretion rates from literature, we estimate that these fish consume up to 6.0 mmol C/m2 reef/day and excrete up to 10.8 μmol N/m2 reef/day and 1.0 μmol P/m2 reef/day across inshore reefs as a result of Sargassum consumption. Examining fish-mediated connections between habitats illuminates the role of fish as a vector of nutrition to nutrient-poor coral reefs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105884
JournalMarine environmental research
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Red Sea Research Center at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Coastal zone
  • Consumer-mediated nutrient dynamics
  • Habitat connectivity
  • Herbivory
  • Naso elegans
  • Naso unicornis
  • Reefs
  • Sargassum
  • Submerged aquatic vegetation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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