Brief Communication | Published:

Biodiversity enhances coral growth, tissue survivorship and suppression of macroalgae

Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 3pages178182 (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract

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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Datasets used in this study are available online from the BCO-DMO data system (http://bco-dmo.org/).

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Acknowledgements

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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Affiliations

  1. School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

    • Cody S. Clements
    •  & Mark E. Hay
  2. Aquatic Chemical Ecology Center, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

    • Cody S. Clements
    •  & Mark E. Hay

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark E. Hay.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0752-7