Community Structure of Corals and Reef Fishes at Multiple Scales

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Science  26 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5739, pp. 1363-1365
DOI: 10.1126/science.1113281

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Distributions of numerical abundance and resource use among species are fundamental aspects of community structure. Here we characterize these patterns for tropical reef fishes and corals across a 10,000-kilometer biodiversity gradient. Numerical abundance and resource-use distributions have similar shapes, but they emerge at markedly different scales. These results are consistent with a controversial null hypothesis regarding community structure, according to which abundance distributions arise from the interplay of multiple stochastic environmental and demographic factors. Our findings underscore the importance of robust conservation strategies that are appropriately scaled to the broad suite of environmental processes that help sustain biodiversity.

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