Predicting coral community dynamics using multi-species populatiom dynamics models.


In Press
Kayal, M.Lenihan, H. S.Brooks, A. J.Holbrook, S. J.Schmitt, R. J.Kendall, B. E.


Ecology Letters


Predicting whether, how, and to what degree communities recover from disturbance remain majorchallenges in ecology. To predict recovery of coral communities we applied field survey data ofearly recovery dynamics to a multi-species integral projection model that captured key demo-graphic processes driving coral population trajectories, notably density-dependent larval recruit-ment. After testing model predictions against field observations, we updated the model togenerate projections of future coral communities. Our results indicated that communities dis-tributed across an island landscape followed different recovery trajectories but would reassembleto pre-disturbed levels of coral abundance, composition, and size, thus demonstrating persistencein the provision of reef habitat and other ecosystem services. Our study indicates that coral com-munity dynamics are predictable when accounting for the interplay between species life-history,environmental conditions, and density-dependence. We provide a quantitative framework for eval-uating the ecological processes underlying community trajectory and characteristics important toecosystem functioning.

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Journal Article

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