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Climate change alterations to ecosystem dominance: how might sponge-dominated reefs function?


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Bell, JJ, Rovellini, A, Davy, SK, Taylor, MW, Fulton, EA, Dunn, MR, Bennett, HM, Kandler, NM, Luter, HM and Webster, NS 2018 , 'Climate change alterations to ecosystem dominance: how might sponge-dominated reefs function?' , Ecology, vol. 99, no. 9 , pp. 1920-1931 , doi: 10.1002/ecy.2446.

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Anthropogenic stressors are impacting ecological systems across the world. Of particular concern are the recent rapid changes occurring in coral reef systems. With ongoing degradation from both local and global stressors, future reefs are likely to function differently from current coral‐dominated ecosystems. Determining key attributes of future reef states is critical to reliably predict outcomes for ecosystem service provision. Here we explore the impacts of changing sponge dominance on coral reefs. Qualitative modelling of reef futures suggests that changing sponge dominance due to increased sponge abundance will have different outcomes for other trophic levels compared with increased sponge dominance as a result of declining coral abundance. By exploring uncertainty in the model outcomes we identify the need to (1) quantify changes in carbon flow through sponges, (2) determine the importance of food limitation for sponges, (3) assess the ubiquity of the recently described “sponge loop,” (4) determine the competitive relationships between sponges and other benthic taxa, particularly algae, and (5) understand how changing dominance of other organisms alters trophic pathways and energy flows through ecosystems. Addressing these knowledge gaps will facilitate development of more complex models that assess functional attributes of sponge‐dominated reef ecosystems.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Bell, JJ and Rovellini, A and Davy, SK and Taylor, MW and Fulton, EA and Dunn, MR and Bennett, HM and Kandler, NM and Luter, HM and Webster, NS
Keywords: climate change, sponges, coral reefs, ecosystem functioning, Porifera, qualitative modelling, regime shifts
Journal or Publication Title: Ecology
Publisher: Ecological Soc Amer
ISSN: 0012-9658
DOI / ID Number: 10.1002/ecy.2446
Copyright Information:

© 2018 by the Ecological Society of America

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