Extreme environmental conditions reduce coral reef fish biodiversity and productivity

Brandl, Simon J., Johansen, Jacob L., Casey, Jordan M., Tornabene, Luke, Morais, Renato A., and Burt, John A. (2020) Extreme environmental conditions reduce coral reef fish biodiversity and productivity. Nature Communications, 11. 3832.

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Tropical ectotherms are hypothesized to be vulnerable to environmental changes, but cascading effects of organismal tolerances on the assembly and functioning of reef fish communities are largely unknown. Here, we examine differences in organismal traits, assemblage structure, and productivity of cryptobenthic reef fishes between the world’s hottest, most extreme coral reefs in the southern Arabian Gulf and the nearby, but more environmentally benign, Gulf of Oman. We show that assemblages in the Arabian Gulf are half as diverse and less than 25% as abundant as in the Gulf of Oman, despite comparable benthic composition and live coral cover. This pattern appears to be driven by energetic deficiencies caused by responses to environmental extremes and distinct prey resource availability rather than absolute thermal tolerances. As a consequence, production, transfer, and replenishment of biomass through cryptobenthic fish assemblages is greatly reduced on Earth’s hottest coral reefs. Extreme environmental conditions, as predicted for the end of the 21st century, could thus disrupt the community structure and productivity of a critical functional group, independent of live coral loss.

Item ID: 66632
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2041-1723
Copyright Information: © 2020, The Author(s). 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 Creative 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 permitted 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/.
Funders: New York University, Abu Dhabi Institute (NYU-ADI)
Date Deposited: 18 May 2021 03:09
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
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