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Diversity 2011, 3(3), 424-452; doi:10.3390/d3030424

Changes in Biodiversity and Functioning of Reef Fish Assemblages following Coral Bleaching and Coral Loss

1,* , 1,2
1 ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 4811, Australia 2 Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal 23955-6900, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 3 Marine Science Program, Department of Environment and Conservation, Kensington WA 6000, Australia 4 Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 June 2011 / Revised: 2 August 2011 / Accepted: 3 August 2011 / Published: 12 August 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coral Reef Diversity: Climate Change and Coral Reef Degradation)
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Coral reef ecosystems are increasingly subject to severe, large-scale disturbances caused by climate change (e.g., coral bleaching) and other more direct anthropogenic impacts. Many of these disturbances cause coral loss and corresponding changes in habitat structure, which has further important effects on abundance and diversity of coral reef fishes. Declines in the abundance and diversity of coral reef fishes are of considerable concern, given the potential loss of ecosystem function. This study explored the effects of coral loss, recorded in studies conducted throughout the world, on the diversity of fishes and also on individual responses of fishes within different functional groups. Extensive (>60%) coral loss almost invariably led to declines in fish diversity. Moreover, most fishes declined in abundance following acute disturbances that caused >10% declines in local coral cover. Response diversity, which is considered critical in maintaining ecosystem function and promoting resilience, was very low for corallivores, but was much higher for herbivores, omnivores and carnivores. Sustained and ongoing climate change thus poses a significant threat to coral reef ecosystems and diversity hotspots are no less susceptible to projected changes in diversity and function.
Keywords: climate change; disturbance; ecosystem function; habitat loss climate change; disturbance; ecosystem function; habitat loss
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Pratchett, M.S.; Hoey, A.S.; Wilson, S.K.; Messmer, V.; Graham, N.A. Changes in Biodiversity and Functioning of Reef Fish Assemblages following Coral Bleaching and Coral Loss. Diversity 2011, 3, 424-452.

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