Cross-scale habitat structure driven by coral species composition on tropical reefs

Richardson, Laura E., Graham, Nicholas A.J., and Hoey, Andrew S. (2017) Cross-scale habitat structure driven by coral species composition on tropical reefs. Scientific Reports, 7 (1). 7557.

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Abstract

The availability of habitat structure across spatial scales can determine ecological organization and resilience. However, anthropogenic disturbances are altering the abundance and composition of habitat-forming organisms. How such shifts in the composition of these organisms alter the physical structure of habitats across ecologically important scales remains unclear. At a time of unprecedented coral loss and homogenization of coral assemblages globally, we investigate the inherent structural complexity of taxonomically distinct reefs, across five ecologically relevant scales of measurement (4-64 cm). We show that structural complexity was influenced by coral species composition, and was not a simple function of coral cover on the studied reefs. However, inter-habitat variation in structural complexity changed with scale. Importantly, the scales at which habitat structure was available also varied among habitats. Complexity at the smallest, most vulnerable scale (4 cm) varied the most among habitats, which could have inferences for as much as half of all reef fishes which are small-bodied and refuge dependent for much of their lives. As disturbances continue and species shifts persist, the future of these ecosystems may rely on a greater concern for the composition of habitat-building species and prioritization of particular configurations for protection of maximal cross-scale habitat structural complexity.

Item ID: 53968
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE130100688, ARC DE130101705
Research Data: http://doi.org/10.4225/28/593893efcb5cb
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 05:32
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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