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Title: Different population trajectories of two reef‐building corals with similar life‐history traits
Abstract

Increases in the frequency and intensity of acute and chronic disturbances are causing declines of coral reefs world‐wide. Although quantifying the responses of corals to acute disturbances is well documented, detecting subtle responses of coral populations to chronic disturbances is less common, but can also result in altered population and community structures.

We investigated the population dynamics of two key reef‐building Merulinid coral species,Dipsastraea favusandPlatygyra lamellina, with similar life‐history traits, in the Gulf of Eilat and Aqaba, Red Sea from 2015 to 2018, to assess potential differences in their population trajectories.

Demographic processes, which included rates of survival, growth, reproduction and recruitment were used to parametrize integral projection models and estimate population growth rates and the likely population trajectories of both coral species.

The survival and reproduction rates of bothD. favusandP. lamellinawere positively related to coral colony size, and elasticity analyses showed that large colonies most influenced population dynamics. Although both species have similar life‐history traits and growth morphologies and are generally regarded as ‘stress‐tolerant’, the populations showed contrasting trajectories—D. favusappears to be increasing whereasP. lamellinaappears to be decreasing.

As many corals have long‐life expectancies, the process of local and regional decline might be subtle and slow. Ecological assessments based on total living coral coverage, morphological groups or functional traits might overlook subtle, species‐specific trends. However, demographic approaches capable of detecting subtle species‐specific population changes can augment ecological studies and provide valuable early warning signs of decline before major coral loss becomes evident.

 
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Award ID(s):
1829393
NSF-PAR ID:
10452719
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley-Blackwell
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume:
90
Issue:
5
ISSN:
0021-8790
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1379-1389
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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