Temperate functional niche availability not resident-invader competition shapes tropicalisation in reef fishes

Nat Commun. 2023 Apr 17;14(1):2181. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-37550-5.


Temperate reefs are at the forefront of warming-induced community alterations resulting from poleward range shifts. This tropicalisation is exemplified and amplified by tropical species’ invasions of temperate herbivory functions. However, whether other temperate ecosystem functions are similarly invaded by tropical species, and by what drivers, remains unclear. We examine tropicalisation footprints in nine reef fish functional groups using trait-based analyses and biomass of 550 fish species across tropical to temperate gradients in Japan and Australia. We discover that functional niches in transitional communities are asynchronously invaded by tropical species, but with congruent invasion schedules for functional groups across the two hemispheres. These differences in functional group tropicalisation point to habitat availability as a key determinant of multi-species range shifts, as in the majority of functional groups tropical and temperate species share functional niche space in suitable habitat. Competition among species from different thermal guilds played little part in limiting tropicalisation, rather available functional space occupied by temperate species indicates that tropical species can invade. Characterising these drivers of reef tropicalisation is pivotal to understanding, predicting, and managing marine community transformation.

PMID:37069145 | PMC:PMC10110547 | DOI:10.1038/s41467-023-37550-5


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