Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals
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Understanding life history and demographic variation among species within communities is a central ecological goal. Mortality schedules are especially important in ecosystems where disturbance plays a major role in structuring communities, such as coral reefs. Here, we test whether a trait-based, mechanistic model of mechanical vulnerability in corals can explain mortality schedules. Specifically, we ask whether species that become increasingly vulnerable to hydrodynamic dislodgment as they grow have bathtub-shaped mortality curves, whereas species that remain mechanically stable have decreasing mortality rates with size, as predicted by classical life history theory for reef corals. We find that size-dependent mortality is highly consistent between species with the same growth form and that the shape of size-dependent mortality for each growth form can be explained by mechanical vulnerability. Our findings highlight the feasibility of predicting assemblage-scale mortality patterns on coral reefs with trait-based approaches.
Madin , J S , Baird , A H , Dornelas , M & Connolly , S R 2014 , ' Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals ' Ecology Letters , vol 17 , no. 8 , pp. 108-1015 . DOI: 10.1111/ele.12306
© 2014 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
JM, AB and SC were supported by fellowships from the Australian Research Council (FT110100609, FT0990652 and DP0880544 respectively). MD was supported by the ERC (BioTIME 250189) and the Scottish Funding Council (MASTS - HR09011).
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