Factors limiting the range extension of corals into high-latitude reef regions
Reef-building corals show a marked decrease in total species richness from the tropics to high latitude regions. Several hypotheses have been proposed to account for this pattern in the context of abiotic and biotic factors, including temperature thresholds, light limitation, aragonite saturation, nutrient or sediment loads, larval dispersal constraints, competition with macro-algae or other invertebrates, and availability of suitable settlement cues or micro-algal symbionts. Surprisingly, there is a paucity of data supporting several of these hypotheses. Given the immense pressures faced by corals in the Anthropocene, it is critical to understand the factors limiting their distribution in order to predict potential range expansions and the role that high latitude reefs can play as refuges from climate change. This review examines these factors and outlines critical research areas to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of light/temperature interactions, coral-Symbiodiniaceae associations, settlement cues, and competition in high latitude reefs.
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Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Research Council