To what extent do mesophotic coral ecosystems and shallow reefs share species of conservation interest? A systematic review

Laverick, Jack H., Piango, Shanice, Andradi-Brown, Dominic A., Exton, Dan A., Bongaerts, Pim, Bridge, Tom C.L., Lesser, Michael P., Pyle, Richard L., Slattery, Marc, Wagner, Daniel, and Rogers, Alex D. (2018) To what extent do mesophotic coral ecosystems and shallow reefs share species of conservation interest? A systematic review. Environmental Evidence, 7 (15).

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Abstract

Background: Globally, shallow-water coral reef biodiversity is at risk from a variety of threats, some of which may attenuate with depth. Mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs), occurring from 30 to 40 m and deeper in tropical locations, have been subject to a surge of research this century. Though a number of valuable narrative reviews exist, a systematic quantitative synthesis of published MCE studies is lacking. We conducted a systematic review to collate mesophotic research, including studies from the twentieth century to the present. We highlight current biases in research effort, regarding locations and subject matter, and suggest where more attention may be particularly valuable. Following a notable number of studies considering the potential for mesophotic reefs to act as refuges, it is important to know how comprehensive these sources of recruits and organisms capable of moving to shallow water reefs may be.

Methods: We search seven sources of bibliographic data with two search strings, as well as personal libraries. Articles were included if they contained species presence data from both shallower and deeper than 30 m depth on tropical coral reefs. Studies were critically appraised based on the number of species identified and balanced sampling effort with depth. Maximum and minimum depths per species were extracted from each study, along with study region and taxon. We quantified the degree of community overlap between shallow tropical reefs (<30 m) and reefs surveyed at the same locations below 30 m. Proportions of shallow species, across all studied taxa, observed deeper than 30 m were used to generate log odds ratios and passed to a mixed-effects model. Study location and taxon were included as effect modifiers. Funnel plots, regression tests, fail safe numbers, and analysis of a high validity subgroup contributed to sensitivity analyses and tests of bias.

Results: Across all studies synthesised we found two-thirds of shallow species were present on mesophotic reefs. Further analysis by taxon and broad locations show that this pattern is influenced geographically and taxonomically. Community overlap was estimated as low as 26% and as high as 97% for some cases.

Conclusions: There is clear support for the hypothesis that protecting mesophotic reefs will also help to conserve shallow water species. At the same time, it is important to note that this study does not address mesophotic-specialist communities, or the ecological forces which would permit refuge dynamics. As we limit our analysis to species only present above 30 m it is also possible diversity found exclusively deeper than 30 m warrants protection in its own right. Further research into relatively ignored taxa and geographic regions will help improve the design of protected areas in future.

Item ID: 55873
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2047-2382
Keywords: Depth, Community structure, Biodiversity, Coral reefs, Twilight zone, Refuge
Copyright Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided 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 Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Funders: National Environmental Research Council (NERC), Fisheries Society of the British Isles
Projects and Grants: NERC NE/L002612
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2018 08:12
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 60%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960501 Ecosystem Assessment and Management at Regional or Larger Scales @ 100%
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