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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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Shallow reefs (7–9 m) in St. John, US Virgin Islands, have shown a cryptic regime change over the last 23 yr involving subtle covariation of abundance of scleractinians, macroalgae, and octocorals. Photos: P.J. Edmunds

Edmunds PJ, Lasker HR


Cryptic regime shift in benthic community structure on shallow reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands

Dramatic declines in the abundance of stony corals and concomitant increases in macroalgae have been characterized as the “coral reef crisis.” In contrast to that pattern, Edmunds & Lasker describe changes in benthic community structure over 23 yr for shallow coral reefs in St. John, US Virgin Islands, which conform to a “cryptic regime change” model involving subtle covariation in abundance of scleractinian species, octocoral genera, and macroalgae. The changes are most strongly associated with chronic disturbances and provide a glimpse of one potential future state for shallow Caribbean reefs.


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