Persistence and change in community composition of reef corals through present, past, and future climates.

PLoS ONE. 2014;9(10):e107525 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0107525


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Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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Peter J Edmunds
Mehdi Adjeroud
Marissa L Baskett
Iliana B Baums
Ann F Budd
Robert C Carpenter
Nicholas S Fabina
Tung-Yung Fan
Erik C Franklin
Kevin Gross
Xueying Han
Lianne Jacobson
James S Klaus
Tim R McClanahan
Jennifer K O'Leary
Madeleine J H van Oppen
Xavier Pochon
Hollie M Putnam
Tyler B Smith
Michael Stat
Hugh Sweatman
Robert van Woesik
Ruth D Gates


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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

The reduction in coral cover on many contemporary tropical reefs suggests a different set of coral community assemblages will dominate future reefs. To evaluate the capacity of reef corals to persist over various time scales, we examined coral community dynamics in contemporary, fossil, and simulated future coral reef ecosystems. Based on studies between 1987 and 2012 at two locations in the Caribbean, and between 1981 and 2013 at five locations in the Indo-Pacific, we show that many coral genera declined in abundance, some showed no change in abundance, and a few coral genera increased in abundance. Whether the abundance of a genus declined, increased, or was conserved, was independent of coral family. An analysis of fossil-reef communities in the Caribbean revealed changes in numerical dominance and relative abundances of coral genera, and demonstrated that neither dominance nor taxon was associated with persistence. As coral family was a poor predictor of performance on contemporary reefs, a trait-based, dynamic, multi-patch model was developed to explore the phenotypic basis of ecological performance in a warmer future. Sensitivity analyses revealed that upon exposure to thermal stress, thermal tolerance, growth rate, and longevity were the most important predictors of coral persistence. Together, our results underscore the high variation in the rates and direction of change in coral abundances on contemporary and fossil reefs. Given this variation, it remains possible that coral reefs will be populated by a subset of the present coral fauna in a future that is warmer than the recent past.