Our work on animal-mediated nutrients


Nutrient provisioning by animals, via excretion and egestion, can be a major driver of primary productivity in ecosystems. Animal-mediated nutrient sources can be particularly important in nutrient-poor systems such as coral reefs.  Focusing on coral reef fishes, we have been asking how patterns of diurnal and nocturnal fish movement and abundance influence nitrogen provisioning on Bahamian coral reefs, whether fish-derived nutrients are actually taken up by reef-associated primary producers (e.g., seagrass, seaweed and phytoplankton), and what impact invasive lionfish is having on coral reef nitrogen budgets (Fiona Francis).  We have recently started addressing some of these questions using tropical sea cucumbers as model systems.  Using large-scale field experiments, we are hoping to measure the effect of simulated sea cucumber fisheries on nutrient provisioning (Hannah Watkins) as well as investigating how interchangeable sea cucumber species are as nutrient providers (Rachel Munger).

Some of our publications on animal-mediated nutrients on coral reefs

  • Francis, F.T. and Côté, I.M. 2018. Fish movement drives spatial and temporal patterns of nutrient provisioning on coral reefs. Ecosphere 9, e02225.
  • Francis, F.T. and Côté, I.M. Fish excretion drives primary productivity on coral patch reef ecosystems. In review.