University of Tasmania

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Biological interactions both facilitate and resist climate-related functional change in temperate reef communities

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 05:53 authored by Bates, AE, Richard Stuart-SmithRichard Stuart-Smith, Neville BarrettNeville Barrett, Graham EdgarGraham Edgar
Shifts in the abundance and location of species are restructuring life on the Earth, presenting the need to build resilience into our natural systems. Here, we tested if protection from fishing promotes community resilience in temperate reef communities undergoing rapid warming in Tasmania. Regardless of protection status, we detected a signature of warming in the brown macroalgae, invertebrates and fishes, through increases in the local richness and abundance of warm-affinity species. Even so, responses in protected communities diverged from exploited communities. At the local scale, the number of cool-affinity fishes and canopy-forming algal species increased following protection, even though the observation window fell within a period of warming. At the same time, exploited communities gained turf algal and sessile invertebrate species. We further found that the recovery of predator populations following protection leads to marked declines in mobile invertebrates—this trend could be incorrectly attributed to warming without contextual data quantifying community change across trophic levels. By comparing long-term change in exploited and protected reefs, we empirically demonstrate the role of biological interactions in both facilitating and resisting climate-related biodiversity change. We further highlight the potential for trophic interactions to alter the progression of both range expansions and contractions.


Australian Research Council

Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia)

Dept of Environment & Natural Resources South Australia

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water

Parks Victoria

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service


Publication title

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences





Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Royal Soc London

Place of publication

6 Carlton House Terrace, London, England, Sw1Y 5Ag

Rights statement

Copyright 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems