Predicting changes in multi-taxon reef functioning under climate change.

Miss Katie Cook1, Dr James Reimer2, Dr Brigitte  Sommer3,4, Mr Masaru Mizuyama2, Mr Iori Kawamura2, Dr Masami Obuchi2,4, Dr Mark Miller1, Professor Piers Forster1, Dr  Maria Beger1,4

1University Of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, 2University of The Ryukyus, , Japan, 3The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia , 4The University of Queensland , Brisbane, Australia

Environmental and ecological changes along tropical to temperate transition zones exemplify ecological systems experiencing the effects of poleward range shifts. Tropical species shifting to higher latitudes co-exist with or outcompete their sub-tropical and temperate counterparts, resulting in the formation of ecosystems with novel species combinations and interactions. It is unclear if these communities will continue to change, if ecosystem functioning will be maintained, and where further novel ecosystems will form.

This study uses a multi-taxon functional trait approach to understand and predict community assembly and shifts under climate change. Surveys were conducted at 31 reefs along Japan’s east coast (24-35°N), recording the abundance of fish, mollusc, algae and coral species. A trait matrix including morphological, physiological and life history traits was created for all species, and this was used to classify species into functional groups. Latitudinal shifts in functional group and species community assembly were found, suggesting they are influenced by environmental variables. Thus, variables such as sea surface temperature and pH were used to create abundance based environmental niche models for the functional groups that were then projected under multiple climate scenarios.

We show future changes in abundance of functional groups at all sites, with the largest rates of change found at high latitudes. Here, the abundance of groups with mainly tropical species increased, groups with mainly subtropical species decreased, with benthic small-bodied groups maintaining their abundance. Areas found to be hotspots of change may be appropriate targets for long-term monitoring studies assessing the ecological effects of range shifts.


I am a PhD student at the University of Leeds interested in the effects of climate change on biological communities, and how this can be integrated into conservation planning.

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