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Dynamic fragility of oceanic coral reef ecosystems

Lookup NU author(s): Nicholas Graham, Dr Shaun Wilson, Professor Simon Jennings, Professor Nick Polunin, Jenna Robinson


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As one of the most diverse and productive ecosystems known, and one of the first ecosystems to exhibit major climate-warming impacts (coral bleaching), coral reefs have drawn much scientific attention to what may prove to be their Achilles heel, the thermal sensitivity of reef-building corals. Here we show that climate change-driven loss of live coral, and ultimately structural complexity, in the Seychelles results in local extinctions, substantial reductions in species richness, reduced taxonomic distinctness, and a loss of species within key functional groups of reef fish. The importance of deteriorating physical structure to these patterns demonstrates the longer-term impacts of bleaching on reefs and raises questions over the potential for recovery. We suggest that isolated reef systems may be more susceptible to climate change, despite escaping many of the stressors impacting continental reefs. © 2006 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NVC, Bijoux JP, Robinson J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Year: 2006

Volume: 103

Issue: 22

Pages: 8425-8429

ISSN (print): 0027-8424

ISSN (electronic): 1091-6490

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences


DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0600693103

PubMed id: 16709673


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