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Diversity, structure and demography of coral assemblages on underwater lava flows of different ages at Reunion Island and implications for ecological succession hypotheses

Abstract : Understanding colonization of new habitats and ecological successions is key to ecosystem conservation. However, studies on primary successions are scarce for reef-building corals, due to the rarity of newly formed substratum and the long-term monitoring efforts required for their long life cycle and slow growth rate. We analysed data describing the diversity, structure and demography of coral assemblages on lava flows of different ages and coral reefs at Reunion Island, to evaluate the strength and mechanisms of succession, and its agreement to the theoretical models. No significant differences were observed between the two habitats for most structure and demographic descriptors. In contrast, species richness and composition differentiated coral reefs from lava flows, but were not related to the age of the lava flow. We observed a strong dominance of Pocillopora colonies, which underline the opportunistic nature of this taxa, with life-history traits advantageous to dominance on primary and secondary successional stages. Although some results argue in favor of the tolerance model of succession, the sequences of primary successions as theorized in other ecosystems were difficult to observe, which is likely due to the high frequency and intensity of disturbances at Reunion, that likely distort or set back the expected successional sequences.
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Submitted on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 8:31:45 AM
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Florian Jouval, Lionel Bigot, Sophie Bureau, Jean-Pascal Quod, Lucie Penin, et al.. Diversity, structure and demography of coral assemblages on underwater lava flows of different ages at Reunion Island and implications for ecological succession hypotheses. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2020, 10, pp.20821. ⟨10.1038/s41598-020-77665-z⟩. ⟨hal-03276332⟩

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