Change in tropical rocky shore communities due to an alien coral invasion.
To determine how benthic, tropical, rocky shore communities were affected by the invasive coral species Tubastraea coccinea and T. tagusensis, 8 sites were studied during 2 yr on rocky shores in the southwest Atlantic Ocean (Brazil) by using both fixed and random sampling techniques. Overall, mean cover of T. tagusensis was 0.7% and T. coccinea was 0.4%, (the eleventh and sixteenth most abundant taxa, respectively, throughout the sites). Forty-two major space occupying taxa were registered. In fixed quadrats there was a 76.6% increase per year in density of Tubastraea spp. over the study period. For percent cover no significant difference in cover over time was detected for T. coccinea, but for T. tagusensis and overall (both species) cover increased significantly. The random quadrats data showed subtle differences from the fixed quadrats. There was an increase in density of Tubastraea spp. through time (67.8% per year over the study period). In random samples the density of T. coccinea increased during the study but that of T. tagusensis did not. The cover of both corals also increased over time. The sites where Tubastraea spp. were most abundant possessed higher diversity, evenness and richness of species. Sites where Tubastraea was present tended to group in ordination. The presence of Tubastraea in the communities caused a mean dissimilarity of 4.8% in the invaded communities. A strong positive relationship between invader cover and change in community structure was found, which suggested complete (100%) community dissimilarity at an invader cover of 45%. The negative effects are sufficient to disturb the native benthic communities throughout the tropical Atlantic Ocean.