Community-level density dependence: an example from a shallow coral assemblage

Tanner, Jason E., Hughes, Terence P., and Connell, Joseph H. (2009) Community-level density dependence: an example from a shallow coral assemblage. Ecology, 90 (2). pp. 506-516.

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While density dependence is a popular topic of research in population ecology, it has received much less attention at the community level. Using 27 years of data from Heron Island, on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, we develop a matrix model of coral community dynamics that shows that community-level density dependence does occur and that it is fairly common, being found in 38% of the model parameters for which it was tested. In particular, colonization of free space (through either recruitment or growth of existing colonies) was nearly always density dependent. There were no consistent patterns in the results for mortality, persistence, or species interactions. Most transitions were found to be dependent on the cover of the incoming species group, with only a few dependent on that of the outgoing species group. In addition, few of the transitions representing species interactions were dependent on the amount of free space present, suggesting that the cover of other species does not influence encounters.

When these results were combined into a model of community dynamics, it was found that density dependence resulted in a moderate increase in coral cover, which was spread over most species groups. The dynamics of the density-dependent assemblage were also a lot noisier than those of an assemblage without density dependence. Sensitivity analysis indicated that it was density dependence in the colonization probabilities, particularly of encrusting acroporids, bushy Acropora and staghorn Acropora, which had the main influence on the model, although persistence of free space was also important. Transitions representing mortality were only of minor importance, and those representing species interactions were of no importance.

Item ID: 10999
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: colonization, community dynamics, competition, coral reefs, density dependence, disturbance, Great Barrier Reef, matrix model
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Reproduced with permission from Ecological Society of America (ESA).

Date Deposited: 24 May 2010 02:41
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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