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Diversity, distribution, and environmental drivers of coralline red algae: the major reef builders in the Southwestern Atlantic

Abstract

Coralline red algae (CRA) are key players in the construction and maintenance of biogenic reefs, and they have important functional roles in ecological systems in the Southwestern Atlantic (SWA). Like many other marine organisms, CRA are currently affected by global and local stressors, but little is known about their biodiversity and the environmental drivers that influence their distribution patterns in the SWA. In the present study, we quantified the species richness of CRA in six ecoregions within the SWA using DNA-based species delimitation methods. We then verified their distribution and identified the main drivers shaping the macroecological patterns of richness and β-diversity. We found 79 phylogenetic species that belong to the three main CRA orders (Sporolithales, Corallinales, and Hapalidiales), in the tropical and warm temperate SWA. Temperature, nutrients, and water current velocity were the main environmental drivers of CRAs in the evaluated ecoregions. The Eastern Brazil ecoregion stands out due to its high richness, exclusive species, β-diversity between ecoregions, and as a transitional zone of the SWA. The results of our study have several important practical implications with repercussions for monitoring actions and conservation planning for the coastal region. These results show that each ecoregion has unique characteristics, and the mesophotic habitat is of primary importance because it harbors species that are not found in other habitats, and because it provides structural connectivity with shallower habitats.

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Acknowledgements

R. Morais, H. Guabiroba, L. Cabral, M. Lucena, M. Cavichioli, D. Cabral, and E. Bastos are thanked for assistance with sampling. We thank the Laboratório Multiusuário de Estudos em Biologia (LAMEB) of the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) for the availability of equipment. We also thank R. Morais for comments. This work is dedicated to the memory of our great friend and colleague Thiony E. Simon. This work was financed in part by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnologico (CNPq), Prospecção Sustentável e Ilhas Oceânicas: Biodiversidade, Química, Ecologia e Biotecnologia (PROSPECMAR 458548/2013-8), Rede Nacional de Pesquisa em Biodiversidade Marinha (SISBIOTAMar), Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina (FAPESC), Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza, and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES)—Finance Code 001. M.N.S. received a Ph.D. scholarship from CAPES and a Grant from the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT). Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) provided scholarship for B.N.T.S. and T.V.P. (2010/19234-3, 2012/05076-2) and research funding to M.C.O, (Biota 2013/11833-3). M.C.O. also thanks the CNPq (305687/2018-2 and Br BOL 564945-2010-2). J.M.C.N is grateful to his personal grant provided by CNPq (308542/2018-5). M.B.B.B. thanks the grant Biota–FAPERJ (E–26/110.019/2011) provided by Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ). PH also thanks fellowship and additional financial support of CNPq, CAPES, CAPES-PRInt, FAPESC, and Fundação Boticário.

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Sissini, M.N., Koerich, G., de Barros-Barreto, M.B. et al. Diversity, distribution, and environmental drivers of coralline red algae: the major reef builders in the Southwestern Atlantic. Coral Reefs 41, 711–725 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-021-02171-1

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Keywords

  • Corallinophycidae
  • Ecoregions
  • PsbA
  • Species delimitation methods