Intraspecific variation reshapes coral assemblages under elevated temperature and acidity
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Insights into assemblages that can persist in extreme environments are still emerging. Ocean warming and acidification select against species with low physiological tolerance (trait-based ‘filtering’). However, intraspecific trait variation can promote species adaptation and persistence, with potentially large effects on assemblage structure. By sampling nine coral traits (four morphological, four tissue and one skeletal) along an offshore–inshore gradient in temperature and pH, we show that distantly related coral species undergo consistent intraspecific changes as they cross into warm, acidic environment. Intraspecific variation and species turnover each favoured colonies with greater tissue biomass, higher symbiont densities and reduced skeletal investments, indicating strong filtering on colony physiology within and across species. Physiological tissue traits were highly variable within species and were independent of morphology, enabling morphologically diverse species to cross into sites of elevated temperature and acidity. Widespread intraspecific change can therefore counter the loss of biodiversity and morphological structure across a steep environmental gradient.
McWilliam , M , Madin , J , Chase , T , Hoogenboom , M O & Bridge , T 2022 , ' Intraspecific variation reshapes coral assemblages under elevated temperature and acidity ' , Ecology Letters , vol. 25 , no. 11 , pp. 2513-2524 . https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.14114
Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DescriptionFunding information: National Science Foundation (USA) (Grant Number(s): 1948946), Leverhulme Trust (Grant Number(s): ECF-2021-512), Australian Research Council (Grant Number(s): DE180100746).
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