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

By James J. Bell, Alberto Rovellini, Simon K. Davy, Michael W. Taylor, Elizabeth A. Fulton, Matthew R. Dunn, Holly M. Bennett, Nora M. Kandler, Heidi M. Luter and Nicole S. Webster

Abstract

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 to 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: i) quantify changes in carbon flow through sponges, ii) determine the importance of food limitation for sponges, iii) assess the ubiquity of the recently described 'sponge loop', iv) determine the competitive relationships between sponges and other benthic taxa, particularly algae, and v) 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. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Topics: Porifera, Coral reefs, Ecosystem functioning, Qualitative modelling, Regime shifts, Sponges, 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Publisher: 'Wiley'
Year: 2018
DOI identifier: 10.1002/ecy.2446
OAI identifier: oai:espace.library.uq.edu.au:UQ:ea2bdfa

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