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Speed C.W.,Marine Science Program | Babcock R.C.,CSIRO | Bancroft K.P.,Marine Science Program | Beckley L.E.,Murdoch University | And 16 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Monitoring changes in coral cover and composition through space and time can provide insights to reef health and assist the focus of management and conservation efforts. We used a meta-analytical approach to assess coral cover data across latitudes 10-35°S along the west Australian coast, including 25 years of data from the Ningaloo region. Current estimates of coral cover ranged between 3 and 44% in coral habitats. Coral communities in the northern regions were dominated by corals from the families Acroporidae and Poritidae, which became less common at higher latitudes. At Ningaloo Reef coral cover has remained relatively stable through time (∼28%), although north-eastern and southern areas have experienced significant declines in overall cover. These declines are likely related to periodic disturbances such as cyclones and thermal anomalies, which were particularly noticeable around 1998/1999 and 2010/2011. Linear mixed effects models (LME) suggest latitude explains 10% of the deviance in coral cover through time at Ningaloo. Acroporidae has decreased in abundance relative to other common families at Ningaloo in the south, which might be related to persistence of more thermally and mechanically tolerant families. We identify regions where quantitative time-series data on coral cover and composition are lacking, particularly in north-western Australia. Standardising routine monitoring methods used by management and research agencies at these, and other locations, would allow a more robust assessment of coral condition and a better basis for conservation of coral reefs. © 2013 Speed et al. Source


Thomas L.,The UWA Oceans Institute | Jason Kennington W.,University of Western Australia | Stat M.,Curtin University Australia | Wilkinson S.P.,Victoria University of Wellington | And 2 more authors.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2015

A detailed understanding of the genetic structure of populations and an accurate interpretation of processes driving contemporary patterns of gene floware fundamental to successful spatial conservation management. The field of seascape genetics seeks to incorporate environmental variables and processes into analyses of population genetic data to improve our understanding of forces driving genetic divergence in the marine environment. Information about barriers to gene flow(such as ocean currents) is used to define a resistance surface to predict the spatial genetic structure of populations and explain deviations from the widely applied isolation-by-distance model. The majority of seascape approaches to date have been applied to linear coastal systems or at large spatial scales (more than 250 km), with very few applied to complex systems at regional spatial scales (less than 100 km). Here,we apply a seascape genetics approach to a peripheral population of the broadcast-spawning coral Acropora spicifera across the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, a high-latitude complex coral reef system off the central coast of Western Australia. We coupled population genetic data from a panel of microsatellite DNA markers with a biophysical dispersal model to test whether oceanographic processes could explain patterns of genetic divergence. We identified significant variation in allele frequencies over distances of less than 10 km, with significant differentiation occurring between adjacent sites but not between the most geographically distant ones. Recruitment probabilities between sites based on simulated larval dispersal were projected into a measure of resistance to connectivity that was significantly correlated with patterns of genetic divergence, demonstrating that patterns of spatial genetic structure are a function of restrictions to gene flow imposed by oceanographic currents. This study advances our understanding of the role of larval dispersal on the fine-scale genetic structure of coral populations across a complex island system and applies a methodological framework that can be tailored to suit a variety of marine organisms with a range of life-history characteristics. © 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Source

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