Habitat loss, resource specialization, and extinction on coral reefs

Munday, Philip L. (2004) Habitat loss, resource specialization, and extinction on coral reefs. Global Change Biology, 10 (10). pp. 1642-1647.

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Abstract

Coral reefs worldwide are being degraded due to global warming (coral bleaching) and coastal development (sedimentation and eutrophication). Predicting the risk of species extinctions from this type of habitat degradation is one of the most challenging and urgent tasks facing ecologists. Habitat specialists are thought to be more prone to extinction than generalists; however specialists may be more susceptible to extinction because, 1) they are specialists per se, 2) because they are less abundant than generalists, or 3) both. Here I show that declines in coral abundance lead to corresponding declines in the abundance of coral-dwelling fishes, but with proportionally greater losses to specialists than generalists. In addition, specialists have smaller initial population sizes than generalists. Consequently, specialists face a dual risk of extinction because their already small populations decline more rapidly than those of generalists. Corresponding with this increased extinction risk, I describe the local extinction of one specialist species and the near-global extinction of another species. I conclude that habitat specialists will be the first species lost from coral reefs because their small populations suffer the most from human-induced disturbances.

Item ID: 692
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: habitat specialisation, extinction risk, global warming, population decline, endangered species, Papua New Guinea, coral reef fish, Gobiodon, Gobiidae, Acropora
ISSN: 1365-2486
Date Deposited: 25 May 2007
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069902 Global Change Biology @ 25%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 25%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 151
Downloads: Total: 6
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