March 2022

In tropical shallow marine environments, reef-building corals are foundation species. They are the primary constructors of the three-dimensional physical structure that favors a high diversity of associated taxa by providing heterogeneous habitats and regulating ecological processes such as recruitment, competition, and predation. However, coral species exhibit a great variety of morpho-functional traits; therefore, the abundance of the different species and their associated traits fundamentally define the ecosystem function. In Melo-Merino et al., we spatially estimate the reef functional potential of Greater Caribbean coral reefs by integrating ecological niche models of 49 reef-building coral species with morpho-functional traits. The modelled results were then compared to current estimates of the reef physical functionality derived from field data to quantify the degree of divergence of reefs along the western Caribbean. Photo credit by Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip.

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