Julia Briand

Student Speaker | Étudiant.e
Coral communities support key ecosystem processes and services. Evaluating the spatio-temporal dynamics of coral communities is essential for understanding and predicting the impacts of environmental change on coastal ecosystem functioning. Such environmental change is often attributed to anthropogenic pressures, such as fishing and land-use change, which have driven successional shifts in species dominance across the reefs of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Although paleontological and archeological data suggest that functional change may underly the observed shifts in species dominance, contemporary trait-level change in coral reefs has yet to be assessed for the area. Here we explore how coral species assemblages at 11 sites in Bocas del Toro have shifted over a period of 15 years and assess the role of functional traits in characterizing coral community responses to environmental change. Our results reveal how community-level responses vary spatially and temporally across the archipelago as a function of anthropogenic and environmental stressors. Specifically, we found that the reefs sampled could be separated into two spatially distinct groups of coral communities that are becoming increasingly associated with high sea surface temperatures. This work expands on our existing knowledge of shifts in coral communities attributed to long-term human disturbance in the area, and addresses the intensifying threats of coastal development and thermal stress.