Functional diversity of reef molluscs along a tropical-to-temperate gradient

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Journal Article
Coral Reefs, 2020, 39, (5), pp. 1361-1376
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Global warming is leading to range shifts of marine species, threatening the structure and functioning of ecological communities and human populations that rely on them. The largest changes are seen in biogeographic transition zones, such as subtropical reef communities, where species range shifts are already causing substantial community reorganisation. This causes functional changes in communities over subtropical latitudes, though a baseline functional understanding remains elusive for many taxa. One key marine taxon are molluscs, which provide many ecosystem services, are important prey for fishes and are also fisheries targets themselves, but remain largely unstudied. Here, we examine the trait composition, functional diversity, and functional redundancy of mollusc assemblages along the tropical-to-temperate transition in Japan (25° to 35° Northern latitude). Specifically, we use a trait database of 88 mollusc species from 31 subtropical reefs along the Pacific coast of Japan to show that trait composition of mollusc assemblages changes continuously along the latitudinal gradient. We discover that functional diversity of mollusc assemblages decreases with increasing latitude, a pattern associated with declines in functional dispersion. Moreover, we find a clear distinction between tropical and subtropical mollusc assemblages, with substrate-attached, suspension feeding bivalves more abundant in the tropics and free-living gastropod grazers more prevalent at higher latitudes. Our trait-based evidence in this study shows a contraction and almost complete shift in the functioning of marine mollusc assemblages at biogeographic transition zones and our trait database facilitates further study. Our findings provide evidence of the changing taxonomic and functional composition of extant mollusc communities with latitude, pointing to potential pertinent changes and tropicalisation of these communities with rapid ocean warming.
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