Prof John Pandolfi1, Dr Sun Kim1, Professor Wolfgang Kiessling2
1The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia, 2Universität Erlangen−Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany
Global warming has the potential to affect a large number of species distributions throughout the world. However, subsets of species show varying propensity for range contractions, expansions or both. Previous work established that reef coral distributions differed markedly between the Last Interglacial (LIG; ca. 125,000 years ago), when ocean temperatures were higher than today, and present day. Latitudinal diversity patterns are characterized by a tropical plateau today but exhibited a pronounced equatorial trough during the LIG. This trough was governed by substantial range shifts away from the equator. Range shifts affected both leading and trailing edges of species range limits. Here we show that, although a large number of taxa shifted their ranges in association with global temperature changes between the Pleistocene and the modern, differences in species distribution patterns are expressed through variation in both evolutionary distinctiveness and coral life history traits. We explore the role of phylogenetic and functional diversity in the expression of species movement patterns and the underlying species composition and species traits that drive these patterns. Full understanding of the phylogenetic and functional context for global species movements on coral reefs will provide an important tool for predicting future range movements as a response to climate change, and ensure reef managers with an added perspective in promoting a sustainable coral reef future.
John Pandolfi is a Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland and chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He has research interests in marine palaeoecology, especially the effects of anthropogenic impacts and climate change on the recent past history of modern coral reefs.