Changes in the population and community structure of corals during recent disturbances (February 2016-October 2017) on Maldivian coral reefs

Pisapia, C., Burn, D., and Pratchett, M.S. (2019) Changes in the population and community structure of corals during recent disturbances (February 2016-October 2017) on Maldivian coral reefs. Scientific Reports, 9. 8402.

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Abstract

Climate change is the greatest threat to coral reef ecosystems. In particular, increasing ocean temperatures are causing severe and widespread coral bleaching, contributing to extensive coral loss and degradation of coral reef habitats globally. Effects of coral bleaching are not however, equally apportioned among different corals, leading to shifts in population and community structure. This study explored variation in bleaching susceptibility and mortality associated with the 2016 severe mass bleaching in the Central Maldives Archipelago. Five dominant coral taxa (tabular Acropora, Acropora humilis, Acropora muricata, Pocillopora and massive Porites) were surveyed in February 2016 and October 2017 to test for changes in abundance and size structure. Substantial taxonomic differences in rates of mortality were observed; the most severely affected taxa, Acropora, were virtually extirpated during the course of this study, whereas some other taxa (most notably, massive Porites) were relatively unaffected. However, even the least affected corals exhibited marked changes in population structure. In February 2016 (prior to recent mass-bleaching), size-frequency distributions of all coral taxa were dominated by larger size classes with over-centralized, peaked distributions (negatively skewed with positive kurtosis) reflecting a mature population structure. In October 2017, after the bleaching, coral populations were dominated by smaller and medium size classes, reflecting high levels of mortality and injury among larger coral colonies. Pronounced changes in coral populations and communities in the Maldives, caused by coral bleaching and other disturbances (outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and sedimentation), will constrain recovery capacity, further compounding upon recent coral loss.

Item ID: 60032
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: Open Access. 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 Cre-ative 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 per-mitted 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/. © The Author(s) 2019
Funders: Rufford Foundation, Gili Lankanfushi Resort, One and Only Reethi Rah Resort, Fesdu W Resort and Spa
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 07:43
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 40%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 60%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 100%
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