A comparison of proxy performance in coral biodiversity monitoring
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The productivity and health of coral reef habitat is diminishing worldwide; however, the effect that habitat declines have on coral reef biodiversity is not known. Logistical and financial constraints mean that surveys of hard coral communities rarely collect data at the species level; hence it is important to know if there are proxy metrics that can reliably predict biodiversity. Here, the performances of six proxy metrics are compared using regression analyses on survey data from a location in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Results suggest generic richness is a strong explanatory variable for spatial patterns in species richness (explaining 82 % of the variation when measured on a belt transect). The most commonly used metric of reef health, percentage live coral cover, is not positively or linearly related to hard coral species richness. This result raises doubt as to whether management actions based on such reefscape information will be effective for the conservation of coral biodiversity.
KeywordsDiversity Coral Reefscape proxy Conservation
This study was conducted at the Australian Museum Lizard Island Research Station. Thanks to museum staff for logistical support and access to satellite imagery. Thanks also to Daniela Ceccarelli and Michael Emslie for field assistance. Thanks to Dan Faith, Mick Ashcroft and Craig Syms for useful discussions and anonymous reviewers and Dr Hugh Sweatman for useful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Thanks to Dean Jacobson for composite reef image used in Fig. 1b.
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