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MEPS 621:1-17 (2019)  -  DOI:

Global biogeography of coral recruitment: tropical decline and subtropical increase

N. N. Price1,*, S. Muko2, L. Legendre3, R. Steneck4, M. J. H. van Oppen5,6, R. Albright5,7,18, P. Ang Jr.8, R. C. Carpenter9, A. P. Y. Chui8, T.-Y. Fan10, R. D. Gates11, S. Harii12, H. Kitano13, H. Kurihara14, S. Mitarai15, J. L. Padilla-Gamiño16, K. Sakai12, G. Suzuki17, P. J. Edmunds9

1Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME 04544, USA
2Graduate School of Fisheries Science and Environmental Studies, Nagasaki University, Nagasaki, 852-8521, Nagasaki City, Japan
3Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, LOV, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
4University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, Darling Marine Center, Walpole, ME 04353, USA
5Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No. 3, Townsville MC, QLD 4810, Australia
6School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
7Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
8Marine Science Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT Hong Kong, SAR, China
9Department of Biology, California State University, Northridge, CA 91330-8303, USA
10National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Pingtung 944, Taiwan
11Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA
12Sesoko Station, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Motobu-cho, Okinawa 905-0227, Japan
13Open Biology Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Onna, Okinawa 904-0495, Japan
14Faculty of Science, Biology Program, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan
15Marine Biophysics Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Onna, Okinawa 904-0495, Japan
16School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
17Research Center for Subtropical Fisheries, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute, Ishigaki, Okinawa 907-0451, Japan
18Present address: California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Despite widespread climate-driven reductions of coral cover on tropical reefs, little attention has been paid to the possibility that changes in the geographic distribution of coral recruitment could facilitate beneficial responses to the changing climate through latitudinal range shifts. To address this possibility, we compiled a global database of normalized densities of coral recruits on settlement tiles (corals m-2) deployed from 1974 to 2012, and used the data therein to test for latitudinal range shifts in the distribution of coral recruits. In total, 92 studies provided 1253 records of coral recruitment, with 77% originating from settlement tiles immersed for 3-24 mo, herein defined as long-immersion tiles (LITs); the limited temporal and geographic coverage of data from short-immersion tiles (SITs; deployed for <3 mo) made them less suitable for the present purpose. The results from LITs show declines in coral recruitment, on a global scale (i.e. 82% from 1974 to 2012) and throughout the tropics (85% reduction at <20° latitude), and increases in the sub-tropics (78% increase at >20° latitude). These trends indicate that a global decline in coral recruitment has occurred since 1974, and the persistent reduction in the densities of recruits in equatorial latitudes, coupled with increased densities in sub-tropical latitudes, suggests that coral recruitment may be shifting poleward.

KEY WORDS: Coral settlement · Poleward range shift · Range extension · Equatorial retraction · Retrospective analyses · Global warming

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Cite this article as: Price NN, Muko S, Legendre L, Steneck R and others (2019) Global biogeography of coral recruitment: tropical decline and subtropical increase. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 621:1-17.

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