Diversity partitioning of stony corals across multiple spatial scales around Zanzibar Island, Tanzania
van Woesik, Robert
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The coral reefs of Zanzibar Island (Unguja, Tanzania) encompass a considerable proportion of the global coralreef diversity and are representative of the western Indian Ocean region. Unfortunately, these reefs have been recently subjected to local and regional disturbances. The objectives of this study were to determine whether there are potentially non-random processes forcing the observed coral diversity patterns, and highlight where and at which spatial scales these processes might be most influential. Methodology/Principal Findings: A hierarchical (nested) sampling design was employed across three spatial scales, ranging from transects (≤20 m), stations (<100 m), to sites (<1000 m), to examine coral diversity patterns. Two of the four sites, Chumbe and Mnemba, were located within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), while the other two sites, Changuu and Bawe, were not protected. Additive partitioning of coral diversity was used to separate regional (total) diversity (γ) into local a diversity and among-sample β diversity components. Individual-based null models were used to identify deviations from random distribution across the three spatial scales. We found that Chumbe and Mnemba had similar diversity components to those predicted by the null models. However, the diversity at Changuu and Bawe was lower than expected at all three spatial scales tested. Consequently, the relative contribution of the among-site diversity component was significantly greater than expected. Applying partitioning analysis for each site separately revealed that the within-transect diversity component in Changuu was significantly lower than the null expectation. Conclusions/Significance: The non-random outcome of the partitioning analyses helped to identify the among-sites scale (i.e., 10's of kilometers) and the within-transects scale (i.e., a few meters; especially at Changuu) as spatial boundaries within which to examine the processes that may interact and disproportionately differentiate coral diversity. In light of coral community compositions and diversity patterns we strongly recommend that Bawe be declared a MPA.