Benthic composition changes on coral reefs at global scales

Tebbett, Sterling B., Connolly, Sean R., and Bellwood, David R. (2023) Benthic composition changes on coral reefs at global scales. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 7 (1). pp. 71-81.

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Abstract

Globally, ecosystems are being reconfigured by a range of intensifying human-induced stressors. Coral reefs are at the forefront of this environmental transformation, and if we are to secure their key ecosystem functions and services, it is important to understand the likely configuration of future reefs. However, the composition and trajectory of global coral reef benthic communities is currently unclear. Here our global dataset of 24,468 observations spanning 22 years (1997–2018) revealed that particularly marked declines in coral cover occurred in the Western Atlantic and Central Pacific. The data also suggest that high macroalgal cover, widely regarded as the major degraded state on coral reefs, is a phenomenon largely restricted to the Western Atlantic. At a global scale, the raw data suggest decreased average (± standard error of the mean) hard coral cover from 36 ± 1.4% to 19 ± 0.4% (during a period delineated by the first global coral bleaching event (1998) until the end of the most recent event (2017)) was largely associated with increased low-lying algal cover such as algal turfs and crustose coralline algae. Enhanced understanding of reef change, typified by decreased hard coral cover and increased cover of low-lying algal communities, will be key to managing Anthropocene coral reefs.

Item ID: 78566
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2397-334X
Copyright Information: Published Version: © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2023. Author Accepted Version may be made open access in an Institutional Repository after a 6 month embargo.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FL190100062
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2023 01:05
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 40%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3199 Other biological sciences > 319902 Global change biology @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 20%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 60%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 40%
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