Long-term shifts in the colony size structure of coral populations along the Great Barrier Reef

Dietzel, Andreas, Bode, Michael, Connolly, Sean R., and Hughes, Terry P. (2020) Long-term shifts in the colony size structure of coral populations along the Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 287 (1936).

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.1432
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Abstract

The age or size structure of a population has a marked influence on its demography and reproductive capacity. While declines in coral cover are well documented, concomitant shifts in the size-frequency distribution of coral colonies are rarely measured at large spatial scales. Here, we document major shifts in the colony size structure of coral populations along the 2300 km length of the Great Barrier Reef relative to historical baselines (1995/1996). Coral colony abundances on reef crests and slopes have declined sharply across all colony size classes and in all coral taxa compared to historical baselines. Declines were particularly pronounced in the northern and central regions of the Great Barrier Reef, following mass coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017. The relative abundances of large colonies remained relatively stable, but this apparent stability masks steep declines in absolute abundance. The potential for recovery of older fecund corals is uncertain given the increasing frequency and intensity of disturbance events. The systematic decline in smaller colonies across regions, habitats and taxa, suggests that a decline in recruitment has further eroded the recovery potential and resilience of coral populations.

Item ID: 66154
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: colony size-frequency distribution, disturbance, recruitment, population viability, reef recovery, size structure
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Copyright Information: © 2020 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
Additional Information:

A version of this publication was included as Chapter 3 of the following PhD thesis: Dietzel, Andreas (2020) The viability of coral populations in the Anthropocene. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
Projects and Grants: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies CE140100020
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2020 08:07
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 100%
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