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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 608:297-306 (2019)  -  DOI:

Why more comparative approaches are required in time-series analyses of coral reef ecosystems

P. J. Edmunds1,*, T. C. Adam2, A. C. Baker3, S. S. Doo1, P. W. Glynn3, D. P. Manzello4, N. J. Silbiger1, T. B. Smith5, P. Fong6

1Department of Biology, California State University, 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8303, USA
2Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106 USA
3Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, FL 33149, USA
4Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, NOAA, 4301 Rickenbacker Cswy, Miami, FL 33149, USA
5Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, University of the Virgin Islands, 2 John Brewers Bay, St. Thomas, VI 00802, USA
6Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, 621 Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the Anthropocene, the negative effects of environmental change on coral reefs are outpacing their capacity for continued growth. However, a few reefs have shown resilience to recent disturbances, and here we suggest that more comprehensive attention to comparative approaches could lead to a deeper understanding of the processes causing declining coral cover and impaired ecological resilience. Using sites in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, and Panama, Eastern Tropical Pacific, as examples of resilient reefs that have been studied for over 35 yr, we demonstrate the potential of the comparative approach by exploring different ecological drivers of community resilience at each location. In both cases, coral reef community resilience is associated with strong herbivory, but in Mo’orea, resilience is a product of rapid coral community recovery through sexual recruitment in response to a largely indiscriminate disturbance (crown-of-thorns seastars), while in Panama, resilience appears to be a product of corals acquiring resistance to a repetitive selective disturbance (bleaching). Based on these trends, we propose a hypothesis-driven conceptual framework to test for mechanisms driving community resilience. The recent decade of coral reef degradation has brought time-series analyses to the forefront of research on these systems, where they are detecting disturbances that are unique to modern ecological science. Without explicit comparison among systems, the research potential of these projects will not be fully realized.

KEY WORDS: Mo’orea · Eastern Tropical Pacific · Scleractinia · Coral reef · Resilience

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Cite this article as: Edmunds PJ, Adam TC, Baker AC, Doo SS and others (2019) Why more comparative approaches are required in time-series analyses of coral reef ecosystems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 608:297-306.

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