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Biodiversity enhances coral growth, tissue survivorship and suppression of macroalgae


Coral reefs are declining dramatically and losing species richness, but the impact of declining biodiversity on coral well-being remains inadequately understood. Here, we demonstrate that lower coral species richness alone can suppress the growth and survivorship of multiple species of corals (Porites cylindrica, Pocillopora damicornis and Acropora millepora) under field conditions on a degraded, macroalgae-dominated reef. Our findings highlight the positive role of biodiversity in the function of coral reefs, and suggest that the loss of coral species richness may trigger negative feedback that causes further ecosystem decline.

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Fig. 1: Coral monoculture and polyculture plots in the field, where growth was commonly enhanced in polycultures versus monocultures.
Fig. 2: Coral tissue mortality and macroalgal cover in polycultures versus monocultures.

Data availability

Datasets used in this study are available online from the BCO-DMO data system (


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We thank the Fijian government and the Korolevu-i-wai district elders for collection and research permissions, and V. Bonito for scientific and cultural support. Financial support came from the National Science Foundation (OCE 0929119), National Institutes of Health (2 U19 TW007401-10) and Teasley Endowment to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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C.S.C. and M.E.H. conceived the study. C.S.C. conducted the research with minor help from M.E.H. C.S.C. carried out the data analysis. C.S.C. and M.E.H. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Mark E. Hay.

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Clements, C.S., Hay, M.E. Biodiversity enhances coral growth, tissue survivorship and suppression of macroalgae. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 178–182 (2019).

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