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Title: Geological age and environments shape reef habitat structure
Abstract Aim

Habitat complexity plays an important role in the structure and function of ecosystems worldwide. On coral reefs, habitat complexity influences ecosystem services such as harvestable fish biomass and attenuation of wave energy. Here, we test how three descriptors of surface complexity—rugosity, fractal dimension, and height range—trend with the geological age of reefs (0.2–5.1 million years old), depth (1–25 m), wave exposure (1–306 kW/m), coral cover (0–80%), and three habitat types (aggregated reef, rock and boulder, and pavement).

Location

We surveyed across 234 sites and 4 degrees of latitude in the eight main Hawaiian Islands.

Time Period

April 2019 – July 2019.

Major Taxa Studied

Reef building corals.

Methods

We estimate three surface descriptors (rugosity, fractal dimension and height range) using structure‐from‐motion photogrammetry. We evaluate hypothesized relationships between these descriptors and geological reef age, depth, wave exposure, coral cover and reef habitat type using generalized linear models that account for survey design.

Results

The rugosity of reef habitats decreased with geological reef age; fractal dimension (and coral cover) decreased with wave exposure; and height range decreased with depth. Variations in these patterns were explained by the different habitat types and the way they are formed over time. Nonetheless, the three surface descriptors were geometrically constrained across all habitat types, and so habitats occupied distinctly different regions of habitat complexity space.

Main Conclusions

This study showed how broad environmental characteristics influence the structural complexity of habitats, and therefore geodiversity, which is an important first step toward understanding the communities supported by these habitats and their ecosystem services.

 
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Award ID(s):
1948946
NSF-PAR ID:
10420764
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Ecology and Biogeography
Volume:
32
Issue:
7
ISSN:
1466-822X
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1230-1240
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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