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Title: Trait similarity vs species similarity in coral reef ecology : test of improved monitoring methods using Southwest Madagascar reefs
Author: Widman, Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 9942
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2012
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Trait-based approaches are emerging in various fields of ecology, and are here developed for coral reefs. ‘Traits’ means biological characteristics of each species; thus closely related species may have different traits and distantly related species may share common traits. This promotes understanding of a system better than using species alone. Chapter One summarizes existing methods, mostly from plant ecology, explores their utility for corals, and an extensive review then extracts candidate Scleractinian traits (Chapter Two). A dataset of 26 key traits from 231 species from Southwest Madagascar was then collected using 68 reefs of several typologies along several natural and ‘use’ gradients (Chapter Three). This used over 7,000 photo-quadrats on reefs spanning over 200 km (Chapter Four). Trait-based approaches require species-level identification. However, where species are difficult to distinguish, a species-replacement methodology facilitated translation of species to trait-combinations (Chapter Four). Inter-specific trait similarity between the 231 corals and their 26 traits is examined (Chapter Five). In total, 13 groups of corals with highly similar trait-combinations were identified, in which species are functionally equivalent and which therefore can be considered as functionally interchangeable parts in the ecosystem. However, because one quarter of species had unique trait combinations, a functional group approach to surveying reefs may not adequately describe existing trait diversity. Therefore a methodological alternative to using functional groups alone was developed. A trait-based similarity coefficient (Tsim) was developed to take into account both species and trait combination similarities between reefs (Chapter Six). A R-based package that calculates and visualizes Tsim is provided. Tsim’s characteristics were compared to species-based coefficients (Renkonen similarity). Tsim identifies functionally similar reefs missed using species identity alone (Chapters Six and Seven), and can be used to determine reefs that have highly similar trait combinations while being very dissimilar in terms of species.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) ; University of Warwick ; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (Great Britain) (BBSRC) ; Carter Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QH301 Biology