Pollution signature for temperate reef biodiversity is short and simple
Ling, SD and Davey, A and Reeves, SE and Gaylard, S and Davies, PL and Stuart-Smith, RD and Edgar, GJ, Pollution signature for temperate reef biodiversity is short and simple, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 130 pp. 159-169. ISSN 0025-326X (2018) [Refereed Article]
Pollution increasingly impacts healthy functioning of marine ecosystems globally. Here we quantify concentrations of major pollutant types (heavy metals/sewage/petrochemicals/plastics) as accumulated within marine sediments on and/or immediately adjacent to shallow reefs for 42 sites spanning coastal population centres across south-eastern Australia. Gradients in pollutants were revealed, but few pollutants co-varied, while increasing wave exposure ostensibly diluted concentrations of all pollutants except microplastics. Examination of reef biodiversity indicators revealed that maximum size of fauna and flora, a key life-history parameter summarised by the Community shortness index, plus declining functional and species richness, were the most sensitive bioindicators of pollutants – for which heavy metals and nutrient-enrichment were most pervasive. Results indicate that assemblages of biogenic habitat formers and associated fauna collapse from "long and complicated" to "short and simplified" configurations in response to increasing pollution, and this community signature may form an effective bioindicator to track human-driven degradation.