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Population structure of the hydrocoral Millepora platyphylla in habitats experiencing different flow regimes in Moorea, French Polynesia

Abstract : While the fire coral Millepora platyphylla is an important component of Indo-Pacific reefs, where it thrives in a wide range of environments, the ecological and biological processes driving its distribution and population structure are not well understood. Here, we quantified this species' population structure in five habitats with contrasting hydrodynamic regimes in Moorea, French Polynesia; two in the fore reef: mid and upper slopes, and three in the lagoon: back, fringing and patch reefs. A total of 3651 colonies of fire corals were mapped and measured over 45,000 m2 of surveyed reef. Due to the species' sensitivity to fragmentation in response to strong water movement, hydrodynamic conditions (e.g. waves, pass and lagoonal circulation) corresponded to marked differences in colony size distributions, morphology and recruitment dynamics among habitats. The size structure varied among reef habitats with higher proportions of larger colonies in calm nearshore reefs (fringing and patch reefs), while populations were dominated by smaller colonies in the exposed fore reefs. The highest densities of fire corals were recorded in fore reef habitats (0.12±0.20 n.m- 2) where the proportion of recruits and juveniles was higher at mid slope populations (49.3%) than on the upper slope near where waves break (29.0%). In the latter habitat, most colonies grew as vertical sheets on encrusting bases making them more vulnerable to colony fragmentation, whereas fire corals were encrusting or massive in all other habitats. The lowest densities of M. platyphylla occurred in lagoonal habitats (0.02±0.04 n.m-2) characterized by a combination of low water movement and other physical and biological stressors. This study reports the first evidence of population structure of fire corals
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Caroline E. Dubé, Alexandre Mercière, Mark J.A Vermeij, Serge Planes. Population structure of the hydrocoral Millepora platyphylla in habitats experiencing different flow regimes in Moorea, French Polynesia. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2017, ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0173513⟩. ⟨hal-01561659⟩



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