Quantifying the response of structural complexity and community composition to environmental change in marine communities

Ferrari, Renata, Bryson, Mitch, Bridge, Tom, Hustache, Julie, Williams, Stefan B., Byrne, Maria, and Figueira, Will (2016) Quantifying the response of structural complexity and community composition to environmental change in marine communities. Global Change Biology, 22 (5). pp. 1965-1975.

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Habitat structural complexity is a key factor shaping marine communities. However, accurate methods for quantifying structural complexity underwater are currently lacking. Loss of structural complexity is linked to ecosystem declines in biodiversity and resilience. We developed new methods using underwater stereo-imagery spanning four years (2010-2013) to reconstruct 3D models of coral reef areas, and quantified both structural complexity at two spatial resolutions (2.5 and 25 cm) and benthic community composition to characterise changes after an unprecedented thermal anomaly on the west coast of Australia in 2011. Structural complexity increased at both resolutions in quadrats (4 m²) that bleached, but not those that did not bleach. Changes in complexity were driven by species-specific responses to warming, highlighting the importance of identifying small-scale dynamics to disentangle ecological responses to disturbance. We demonstrate an effective, repeatable method for quantifying the relationship among community composition, structural complexity and ocean warming, improving predictions of the response of marine ecosystems to environmental change.

Item ID: 42158
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2486
Keywords: structural complexity, bleaching, ocean warming and acidification, AUVs, stereo cameras, coral reefs, rugosity
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2015 02:17
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 35%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410203 Ecosystem function @ 35%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 20%
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