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MEPS 620:63-76 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12968

Decadal variability in sponge abundance and biodiversity on an Indo-Pacific coral reef

Alberto Rovellini1,*, Matthew R. Dunn2, Elizabeth A. Fulton3, Nicole S. Webster4,5, David J. Smith6, Jamaluddin Jompa7, Abdul Haris7, Jade Berman8, James J. Bell1

1School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Wellington 6021, New Zealand
3CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Tasmania 7004, Australia
4Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Queensland 4810, Australia
5Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
6Coral Reef Research Unit, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
7Universitas Hasanuddin, Department of Marine Science, Makassar 90245, Indonesia
8Ulster Wildlife, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT3 9LE, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Natural communities can undergo large temporal changes in abundance and species composition that may be difficult to detect without long-term ecological monitoring. Characterizing temporal variability in coral reef fauna is critical for predicting how reef ecosystems will be impacted by environmental change. Sponges are an ecologically important component of coral reefs, yet descriptions of temporal dynamics of multi-species sponge assemblages are scarce. We studied temporal changes in abundance and biodiversity of an Indonesian coral reef sponge assemblage over 13 yr (2005-2017). Mean (±SE) sponge abundance (sponge patches m-2) initially increased from 124.06 ± 8.46 to 183.73 ± 12.12 in 2005-2007 (p < 0.001), declined to 66.53 ± 10.62 in 2007-2014 (p < 0.001), and increased to 105.87 ± 15.42 in 2014-2017 (p < 0.001). These patterns in sponge abundance did not depend on water temperature. Overall, we recorded 141 sponge taxa. However, species composition showed strong temporal patterns driven by a few abundant taxa (e.g. Protosuberites sp., Sycon sp., and Pericharax sp., respectively accounting on average for ~25, 20, and 5% of total sponge abundance). Species richness increased with sponge abundance (p < 0.001), whereas evenness decreased due to dominance of some taxa in years of high sponge abundance (p = 0.002). Our study highlights that the abundance and biodiversity of Indo-Pacific sponge assemblages undergo dramatic temporal changes driven by species-specific population variability. This variability has important implications for designing monitoring programs, for interpreting experimental studies, and for understanding long-term responses of coral reefs to perturbations.


KEY WORDS: Sponge assemblage · Porifera · Indo-Pacific · Population variability · Long-term monitoring · Sponge diversity


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Cite this article as: Rovellini A, Dunn MR, Fulton EA, Webster NS and others (2019) Decadal variability in sponge abundance and biodiversity on an Indo-Pacific coral reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 620:63-76. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12968

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