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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shaun Wilson,
Professor Nick Polunin,
Dr Tim McClanahan
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Global climate change is having devastating effects on habitat structure in coral-reef ecosystems owing to extreme environmental sensitivities and consequent bleaching of reef-building scleractinian corals. Coral bleaching frequently causes immediate loss of live coral and may lead to longer-term declines in topographic complexity. This review identifies coral cover and topographic complexity as critical and distinct components of coral-reef habitats that shape communities of coral-reef fishes. Coral loss has the greatest and most immediate effect on fishes that depend on live corals for food or shelter, and many such fishes may face considerable risk of extinction with increasing frequency and severity of bleaching. Coral loss may also have longer-term consequences for fishes that require live corals at settlement, which are compounded by devastating effects of declining topographic complexity. Topographic complexity moderates major biotic factors, such as predation and competition, contributing to the high diversity of fishes on coral reefs. Many coral-reef fishes that do not depend on live coral are nonetheless dependent on the topographic complexity provided by healthy coral growth. Ecological and economic consequences of declining topographic complexity are likely to be substantial compared with selective effects of coral loss but both coral cover and topographic complexity must be recognised as a critical component of habitat structure and managed accordingly. Urgent action on the fundamental causes of climate change and appropriate management of critical elements of habitat structure (coral cover and topographic complexity) are key to ensuring long-term persistence of coral-reef fishes.
Author(s): Pratchett MS, Munday PL, Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Cinner JE, Bellwood DR, Jones GP, Polunin NVC, McClanahan TR
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review
ISSN (print): 0078-3218
Publisher: CRC Press
Notes: Print ISBN: 978-1-4200-6574-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4200-6575-6
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