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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 594:85-94 (2018)  -  DOI:

How does a widespread reef coral maintain a population in an isolated environment?

Kristin Precoda1,4,*, Andrew H. Baird2, Alisha Madsen1, Toni Mizerek1, Brigitte Sommer3, Sheena N. Su1, Joshua S. Madin1,4

1Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
2Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia
3School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
4Present address: Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In a changing global environment, previously suboptimal habitats may become climate refuges for species. For instance, the ranges of some tropical reef corals are already expanding poleward. Understanding the demographic strategies by which isolated or marginal populations persist is therefore important, especially since such populations are often both vulnerable to local extinction and sources of evolutionary novelty. This study builds an integral projection model from individual-level demographic rates for a genetically isolated population of a reef coral, Plesiastrea versipora, in Sydney Harbour, Australia, in order to understand the population-level demographic characteristics allowing its persistence. We show that this population is thriving, with the potential to rapidly increase in benthic cover, due to high adult survivorship and at least sporadic high recruitment. Medium-sized colonies are the most important for long-term population viability due to their reproductive potential. Nonetheless, the population’s persistence is sensitive to recruitment and growth rates, and protecting it from factors that affect these processes is likely to be crucial for its longer-term survival.

KEY WORDS: Population dynamics · Population persistence · Isolated population · Demographics · Plesiastrea versipora · Integral projection model

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Cite this article as: Precoda K, Baird AH, Madsen A, Mizerek T, Sommer B, Su SN, Madin JS (2018) How does a widespread reef coral maintain a population in an isolated environment? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 594:85-94.

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