Global patterns of stony coral diversity

Study explores global stony coral distributions, sampling completeness and diversity to identify priority areas for improving knowledge gaps

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 109,296 species occurrences
Acropora valida
Acropora valida observed in New Caledonia by damienbr (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Shortfalls in biodiversity knowledge can lead to false estimates of global biodiversity patterns, and filling these knowledge gaps is therefore critical.

To identify areas of priority for improving shortfalls, this study focused on tropical stony corals (Scleractinia), a foundational taxon in coral reef ecosystems. Compiling occurrences of 697 Scleractinia species from GBIF and OBIS, researchers used a rarefaction and extrapolation technique based on sampling completeness to estimate species diversity patterns.

Their results showed relatively consistent sampling completeness across degrees of spatial resolutions, but varying geographically with high levels in coastal areas of Australia and Central America and low levels around Madagascar and some Pacific Islands.

The richness estimates found both latitudinal and longitudinal gradients, particularly at finer spatial resolutions, differing from previous range-based studies. The highest number of coral species was predicted in the western Indian Ocean—with greater diversity than the Indo-Pacific Coral Triangle.

Simulations revealed sampling priority areas on the northeastern coast of Australia, central Coral Triangle and coast of Madagascar to fill knowledge gaps and to help future conservation planning.

Kusumoto B, Costello MJ, Kubota Y, Shiono T, Wei C, Yasuhara M and Chao A (2020) Global distribution of coral diversity: Biodiversity knowledge gradients related to spatial resolution. Ecological Research. Wiley 35(2): 315–326. Available at: