Functional diversity of herbivorous fishes in coral reefs in central Red Sea

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


In this research, I explore the changes in the functional diversity of herbivorous fishes in zones of coral reefs with different benthic composition: a zone dominated by corals, a zone dominated by algae and a transition zone in between the previous two. I choose to use functional traits which explain the feeding mechanics of this group of fish, as well their feeding rates and their previously established functional groups to understand how different assemblages of this fishes could affect their environment in different ways. I found clear differences in the functional diversity by calculating five indexes, functional dispersion (FDis), functional richness (FRic), functional divergence (FDiv), functional evenness (FEve) and functional specialization (FSpe). Each zone showed different species composition with different abundances; both parameters contribute to obtaining different values of the indexes. The coral-dominated zone showed the biggest multidimensional functional trait space (MFTS) with a value of FRic equals to 1 which means that its assemblage occupies 100% of the MFTS, while the transition zone assemblage occupied 83% and the algae-dominated zone occupied 16% of it. Thanks to this index I identified three functionally redundant species in the coral-dominated and the transition zones. The algae-dominated zone showed the lower FDis explained by the high abundance of grazers individuals. FDiv did not vary significantly between the three zones. FEve was higher in the algae-dominated zone; the index value decreased in the transition and coral-dominated zones, a similar tendency was shown by FSpe. Finally, to explore the importance of including functional diversity I made a comparison between the taxonomic and functional β-diversity. This research showed close relations of herbivorous fishes with their environment, but I could not establish if the benthic composition shapes the herbivorous fish assemblage or the other way around. This research can be a baseline to start working in functional diversity in the Red Sea coral reefs, can help to understand what to expect in the evaluation of reefs in different health state and to identify which herbivorous fish species or groups are more vulnerable and more important according to their function for coral reefs.
Date of AwardApr 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorMichael Berumen (Supervisor)


  • Reef degradation
  • Complementarity
  • Functional traits
  • Macroalgae
  • Redundancy
  • Resilience

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