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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 134:299-302 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps134299

Modelling coral reef biodiversity and habitat destruction

Stone L, Eilam E, Abelson A, Ilan M

World wide coral reef decline has now been well documented, but the actual dynamics of this disturbing phenomenon are still far from understood. In this note we describe a simple spatial mathematical model that attempts to capture some of the important ecological processes-including colonization, mortality and competition for space-all of which govern questions of species coexistence in coral communities. The model is then extended to determine what might happen to a community if a proportion of the spatial landscape is destroyed and can no longer be occupied. We examine the species extinction debt incurred as habitat destruction increases and attempt to predict the characteristics of those species which are at greatest risk. To gain even further insights, the results of the model are compared with field-data from the reef flats of Eilat, Israel, as found in Loya's (1976; Ecology 57:278-289) classic study of community structure at reef sites damaged by chronic oil pollution.

Coral reef . Habitat destruction . Spatial model . Extinction . Recruitment . Competition . Oil-pollution

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