Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef corals
Article first published online: 3 JUN 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Volume 17, Issue 8, pages 1008–1015, August 2014
How to Cite
Ecology Letters (2014) 17: 1008–1015
- Issue published online: 2 JUL 2014
- Article first published online: 3 JUN 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 9 MAY 2014
- Manuscript Revised: 25 MAR 2014
- Manuscript Received: 25 FEB 2014
- Australian Research Council. Grant Numbers: FT110100609, FT0990652, DP0880544
- ERC. Grant Number: 250189
- Scottish Funding Council. Grant Number: HR09011
- life history;
- reef coral
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.