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A Synthesis of Coral Reef Community Structure in Hawai‘i and the Caribbean.

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Title:A Synthesis of Coral Reef Community Structure in Hawai‘i and the Caribbean.
Authors:Donovan, Mary K.
Contributors:Zoology (department)
Date Issued:Dec 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:A large focus of coral reef research to-date has been documenting the frequency, causes, and
consequences of reefs shifting from dominance by corals to macroalgae, but further
consideration of important components of the ecosystem, such as fishes and other benthic
organisms, is needed to fully capture reef dynamics. This research investigated patterns of coral
reef community composition based on both fish and benthic assemblages in Hawai‘i and the
Caribbean to provide a broadened perspective on coral reef structure and indicators of change.
Data were synthesized in both regions from existing sources and novel methods were developed
for creating a unified database framework, which facilitated analysis of fish and benthic data
from disparate sources. The status of Caribbean coral reefs varied greatly, with a 12-fold
difference in biomass of fishes across 36 locations. Greater biomass and larger sizes of predators
and scrapers were associated with greater coral cover and lower macroalgal cover. The state of
reefs in Hawai‘i was assessed based on the composition of fish and benthic functional groups,
revealing five distinct reef regimes that varied ecologically. A degraded regime with low coral
and low fish biomass was identified, as well as four other novel regimes that varied significantly
in their ecology, including three that were previously considered a single coral-dominated
regime. Analyses of time series data reflected complex system dynamics, with multiple
transitions among regimes. Finally, metrics of fish and benthic communities that relate to our
understanding of resilience on coral reefs were compared between Hawai‘i and the Caribbean.
Patterns of coral and macroalgal dominance, functional and response diversity, and the
relationships between herbivore abundance and benthic state all varied between regions,
revealing important differences in what underpins resilience in relatively species-poor
geographies. This dissertation provides patterns and metrics of reefs in Hawai‘i and the
Caribbean that can be used for monitoring and managing ecosystem changes on coral reefs in
light of increasing human impacts and global environmental change.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Zoology

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