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Fish communities on the world's warmest reefs: what can they tell us about the effects of climate change in the future?

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Abstract:

To examine the role of climatic extremes in structuring reef fish communities in the Arabian region, reef fish communities were visually surveyed at four sites within the southern Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf and The Gulf), where sea-surface temperatures are extreme (range: 12–35° C annually), and these were compared with communities at four latitudinally similar sites in the biogeographically connected Gulf of Oman, where conditions are more moderate (range: 22–31° C annually). Although sites were relatively similar in the cover and composition of coral communities, substantial differences in the structure and composition of associated fish assemblages were apparent. Fish assemblages in the southern Persian Gulf held significantly lower estimates of abundance, richness and biomass, with significantly higher abundances of smaller sized individuals than Gulf of Oman assemblages. Functionally, southern Persian Gulf sites held significantly lower abundances of nearly all the common fish trophic guilds found on Gulf of Oman sites, although higher abundances of herbivorous grazers were apparent. These results suggest the potential for substantial changes in the structure of reef-associated fish communities, independent of changes in habitat within an environment of increasing fluctuations in oceanic climate.

Keywords: Arabian Gulf; Gulf of Oman; Persian Gulf; climate change; coral-reef fishes; temperature

Document Type: Regular Paper

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8649.2010.02777.x

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, P. O. Box 129-188, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 2: United Nations University, Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Hamilton, ON, L8P 0A1 Canada

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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