Macroalgae are major components of Atlantic shallow coral reef communities and potentially a major competitor with corals. This study investigates the spatial and seasonal distribution of macroalgal species, which includes fleshy algae, turf algae and some geniculate and non-geniculate corallines, on two coastal and one offshore reef from Porto Seguro Bay, Brazil. Data were collected during the dry season (July/August 1999) and the rainy season (February/March 2000), with samples being taken from the reef wall (at 1, 3 and 5 m depth) and from the reef flat. Macroalgal cover ranged from 33% (reef wall) to 60% (reef flat) on the coastal reefs, and from 36% (reef wall) to 50% (reef flat) on the offshore reef. The most diverse group was the Phaeophyta (19 taxa), followed by Rhodophyta (17 taxa) and then Chlorophyta (15 taxa). The largest number of infrageneric taxa was recorded during the rainy season (February/March 2000), the most abundant genera being Sargassum, Padina, Dictyota, Dictyosphaeria, Caulerpa and Amphiroa. Two species were recorded for the first time in the region: Tricleocarpa cylindrica (Rhodophyta, Galaxauraceae) and Avrainvillea longicaulis (Chlorophyta, Udoteaceae). Algal turf dominated the community structure at all reef sites and habitats. Fleshy algae are the second most conspicuous group on the reef flat in both coastal and offshore reefs. In terms of dominance, on the reef wall, corals and zoanthids are second to turf algae in the offshore reef and coastal reefs respectively. This paper is the first of a series describing the distribution of benthic components within coral reef communities of the Brazilian Discovery coast.
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