Young fishes persist despite coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef

Wismer, Sharon, Tebbett, Sterling B., Streit, Robert P., and Bellwood, David R. (2019) Young fishes persist despite coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef. Communications Biology, 2. 456.

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Abstract

Unprecedented global bleaching events have led to extensive loss of corals. This is expected to lead to extensive losses of obligate coral-dependent fishes. Here, we use a novel, spatially-matched census approach to examine the nature of fish-coral dependency across two mass coral bleaching events. Despite a >40% loss of coral cover, and the ecological extinction of functionally important habitat-providing Acropora corals, we show that populations of obligate coral-dependent fishes, including Pomacentrus moluccensis, persisted and – critically – recruitment was maintained. Fishes used a wide range of alternate reef habitats, including other coral genera and dead coral substrata. Labile habitat associations of 'obligate' coral-dependent fishes suggest that recruitment may be sustained on future reefs that lack Acropora, following devastating climatic disturbances. This persistence without Acropora corals offers grounds for cautious optimism; for coral-dwelling fishes, corals may be a preferred habitat, not an obligate requirement.

Item ID: 61652
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2399-3642
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing,adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you giveappropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the CreativeCommons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third partymaterial in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unlessindicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in thearticle’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutoryregulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly fromthe copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visithttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, SNSF 175172
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2020 01:51
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 20%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 20%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 60%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 34%
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