Baskett, Marissa L.; Fabina, Nicholas S.; Gross, Kevin. 2014. Response diversity can increase ecological resilience to disturbance in coral reefs. American Naturalist. Vol: 184(2). Pages E16-E31. (Abstract) (Online version)
Community-level resilience depends on the interaction between multiple populations that vary in individual responses to disturbance. For example, in tropical reefs, some corals can survive higher stress (resistance) while others exhibit faster recovery (engineering resilience) following disturbances such as thermal stress. While each type will negatively affect the other through competition, each might also benefit the other by reducing the potential for an additional competitor such as macroalgae to invade after a disturbance. To determine how community composition affects ecological resilience, we modeled coral-macroalgae interactions given either a resistant coral, a resilient coral, or both together. Having both coral types (i.e., response diversity) can lead to observable enhanced ecological resilience if (1) the resilient coral is not a superior competitor and (2) disturbance levels are high enough such that the resilient coral would collapse when considered alone. This enhanced resilience occurs through competitor-enabled rescue where each coral increases the potential for the other to recover from disturbance through external recruitment, such that both corals benefit from the presence of each other in terms of total cover and resilience. Therefore, conservation management aimed at protecting resilience under global change requires consideration of both diversity and connectivity between sites experiencing differential disturbance.