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Stability in temperate reef communities over a decadal time scale despite concurrent ocean warming


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Stuart-Smith, RD, Barrett, NS and Edgar, GJ 2010 , 'Stability in temperate reef communities over a decadal time scale despite concurrent ocean warming' , Global Change Biology, vol. 16, no. 1 , pp. 122-134 , doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01955.x.

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Despite increasing scientific and public concerns on the potential impacts of global ocean
warming on marine biodiversity, very few empirical data on community-level responses
to rising water temperatures are available other than for coral reefs. This study describes
changes in temperate subtidal reef communities over decadal and regional scales in a
location that has undergone considerable warming in recent decades and is forecast to be
a ‘hotspot’ for future warming.
Plant and animal communities at 136 rocky reef sites around Tasmania (south-east
Australia) were censused between 1992 and 1995, and again in 2006 and 2007. Despite
evidence of major ecological changes before the period of study, reef communities
appeared to remain relatively stable over the past decade. Multivariate analyses and
univariate metrics of biotic communities revealed few changes with time, although some
species-level responses could be interpreted as symptomatic of ocean warming. These
included fishes detected in Tasmania only in recent surveys and several species with
warmer water affinities that appeared to extend their distributions further south. The
most statistically significant changes observed in species abundances, however, were not
related to their biogeographical affinities. The majority of species with changing
abundance possessed lower to mid-range abundances rather than being common, raising
questions for biodiversity monitoring and management. We suggest that our study
encompassed a relatively stable period following more abrupt change, and that community
responses to ocean warming may follow nonlinear, step-like trajectories.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Stuart-Smith, RD and Barrett, NS and Edgar, GJ
Journal or Publication Title: Global Change Biology
DOI / ID Number: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01955.x
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