Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals

Joshua S. Madin*, Andrew H. Baird, Maria Dornelas, Sean R. Connolly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1015
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Volume17
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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    Madin, J. S., Baird, A. H., Dornelas, M., & Connolly, S. R. (2014). Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals. Ecology Letters, 17(8), 1008-1015. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12306