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The shape of abundance distributions across temperature gradients in reef fishes


Waldock, C and Stuart-Smith, RD and Edgar, GJ and Bird, TJ and Bates, AE, The shape of abundance distributions across temperature gradients in reef fishes, Ecology Letters, 22, (4) pp. 685-696. ISSN 1461-023X (2019) [Refereed Article]

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© 2019 The Authors. Ecology Letters published by CNRS and John Wiley & Sons Ltd This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

DOI: doi:10.1111/ele.13222


Improving predictions of ecological responses to climate change requires understanding how local abundance relates to temperature gradients, yet many factors influence local abundance in wild populations. We evaluated the shape of thermal‐abundance distributions using 98 422 abundance estimates of 702 reef fish species worldwide. We found that curved ceilings in local abundance related to sea temperatures for most species, where local abundance declined from realised thermal ‘optima’ towards warmer and cooler environments. Although generally supporting the abundant‐centre hypothesis, many species also displayed asymmetrical thermal‐abundance distributions. For many tropical species, abundances did not decline at warm distribution edges due to an unavailability of warmer environments at the equator. Habitat transitions from coral to macroalgal dominance in subtropical zones also influenced abundance distribution shapes. By quantifying the factors constraining species’ abundance, we provide an important empirical basis for improving predictions of community re‐structuring in a warmer world.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Reef Life Survey, citizen science, warming, reef fish, physiology, global, abundant-centre hypothesis, ecological performance, geographic range, niche partitioning, realised niche, species distribution, species distribution model, thermal performance
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology)
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Ecosystem adaptation to climate change
UTAS Author:Stuart-Smith, RD (Dr Rick Stuart-Smith)
UTAS Author:Edgar, GJ (Professor Graham Edgar)
ID Code:131298
Year Published:2019
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP170104240)
Web of Science® Times Cited:37
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2019-03-12
Last Modified:2020-01-06
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