The global biogeography of reef morphology

Lutzenkirchen, Lucas L., Duce, Stephanie J., and Bellwood, David R. (2023) The global biogeography of reef morphology. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 32 (8). pp. 1353-1364.

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Aim: The Caribbean and Indo-Pacific are separate biogeographical realms with distinct biogeographical and evolutionary histories, a 10-fold difference in biodiversity, and highly disparate sea-level histories. Since reef morphology often reflects interactions between biological activity and biogeographical history, including sea levels, the widths of shallow coral reef habitats are likely to differ markedly between realms, with ramifications for numerous ecosystem functions. Our goal, therefore, was to assess the impact of global-scale biogeographical and evolutionary histories on coral reef habitats. Specifically, are Indo-Pacific reefs wider than their Caribbean counterparts?.

Location: Global.

Time Period: Modern.

Major Taxa Studied: Coral reefs.

Methods: We used the Allen Coral Atlas, a global reef mapping system (3 m pixel resolution), to examine 3765 transects, 3 km long and 1 km apart, on 60 reefs across the two realms, quantifying shallow reef habitat widths (Inner and Outer Reef Flat, and Reef Crest) using ArcGIS.

Results: Shallow reef habitat widths were strikingly similar between the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific. Estimated modal widths diverged by just 37 m; means by just 122 m. Although shallow reef zones appeared to be wider in the Indo-Pacific, habitat widths on atolls were almost identical across realms (means varying by less than 8 m).

Main Conclusions: Our remote sensing approach provides a global description of the biogeography of coral reefs as biogenic structures. Furthermore, we can assess the relative importance of realm-wide differences in coral diversity and sea-level history on reef growth. The striking similarity of reef widths across realms suggests that reef growth (net reef accretion) is largely independent of coral diversity, or sea-level history, and that other factors may have played a major role in constraining shallow reef widths. These factors may include geomorphology (e.g. antecedent topography and historical accommodation space) and, once at sea level, self-limiting local hydrodynamics.

Item ID: 79045
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1466-8238
Keywords: Allen Coral Atlas, biogeography, Caribbean reefs, coral reefs, evolutionary history, Indo-Pacific reefs, reef morphology, remote sensing
Copyright Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes. © 2023 The Authors. Global Ecology and Biogeography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: ARC FL19010000062
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2023 23:52
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4102 Ecological applications > 410203 Ecosystem function @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 40%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 40%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 20%
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