Strong but opposing β-diversity-stability relationships in coral reef fish communities

C. Mellin, C. J.A. Bradshaw, D. A. Fordham, M. J. Caley

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38 Citations (Scopus)


The 'diversity-stability hypothesis', in which higher species diversity within biological communities buffers the risk of ecological collapse, is now generally accepted. However, empirical evidence for a relationship between β-diversity (spatial turnover in community structure) and temporal stability in community structure remains equivocal, despite important implications for theoretical ecology and conservation biology. Here, we report strong β-diversity-stability relationships across a broad sample of fish taxa on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. These relationships were robust to random sampling error and spatial and environmental factors, such as latitude, reef size and isolation. While β-diversity was positively associated with temporal stability at the community level, the relationship was negative for some taxa, for example surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae), one of the most abundant reef fish families. This demonstrates that the β-diversity-stability relationship should not be indiscriminately assumed for all taxa, but thataspecies' risk of extirpation in response to disturbance is likely to be taxon specific and trait based. By combining predictions of spatial and temporal turnover across the study area with observations in marine-protected areas, we conclude that protection alone does not necessarily confer temporal stability and that taxon-specific considerations will improve the outcome of conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20131993
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1777
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bray-curtis
  • Disturbance
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Mantel
  • Time series
  • β-diversity


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