Biodiversity hotspots, centres of endemicity, and the conservation of coral reefs

Coral reefs are renowned for their spectacularly high biodiversity, yet there is widespread concern for their future in the face of threats from land-clearing, over-fishing and global warming.

A new study published in Ecology Letters by Australian scientists - Terry Hughes, David Bellwood and Sean Connolly has shown that biodiversity hotspots on coral reefs are not driven by local concentrations of small-range specialists (endemics).

Unlike hotspots on land, peaks in biodiversity of corals and reef fishes are caused primarily by the overlap in geographic ranges of widely dispersed species (pandemics), many of which extend across an entire ocean.

Furthermore, endemic fishes and corals only rarely occur together, and both are just as common on low-diversity reefs near the limits of reef growth. These new finding have critical implications for conservation of coral reefs.

The authors recommend a two-pronged approach, where both high and low biodiversity regions are targeted for conservation.


Contact: Michael Hochberg
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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