Neighbor diversity regulates the productivity of coral assemblages

McWilliam, Mike, Chase, Tory J., and Hoogenboom, Mia O. (2018) Neighbor diversity regulates the productivity of coral assemblages. Current Biology, 28 (22). pp. 3634-3639.

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Sustaining ecological functions as biodiversity changes will be a major challenge in the 21st century [1]. However, our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function is still emerging on tropical coral reefs [2], where reef-building corals form highly productive assemblages [3, 4] and species respond in different ways to their neighbors [5] and their environment (e.g., water flow) [6]. Experimental coral communities were assembled to quantify the performance of coral colonies with and without neighbors and in the presence of conspecifics versus heterospecifics. Under higher flow, we identified a positive effect of coral species richness on primary productivity (gross and net photosynthesis) indicated by a 53% increase in productivity in multispecies assemblages (2-4 species) relative to monocultures. Productivity in monocultures was predicted by surface areas associated with different species morphologies. In contrast, multispecies assemblages maintained high levels of productivity even in the absence of the most productive species, reflecting non-additive effects of species richness on community functioning. Assemblage performances were regulated by positive and negative interactions between colonies, with many colonies performing better among heterospecific neighbors than in isolation (facilitation). Facilitation occurred primarily among flow-sensitive taxa with simple morphologies and did not occur under lower flow, suggesting that modifications to flow microclimates by corals generated beneficial, interspecific interactions. Our results show that competition and facilitation among neighbors may be important mechanisms regulating coral assemblage productivity in variable environments. Furthermore, shifts in the diversity and identity of neighbors can impair these interactions, with potentially widespread consequences for coral community functioning.

Item ID: 56493
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1879-0445
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Copyright Information: © 2018 Elsevier Ltd.
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A version of this publication was included as Chapter 5 of the following PhD thesis: McWilliam, Mike (2018) The functional diversity and redundancy of corals. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CECRS)
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 07:40
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 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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