Determinants of the steep species-area relationship of coral reef fishes

J. Belmaker, N. Ben-Moshe, Y. Ziv, N. Shashar

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The increase in species richness with area is known as the species-area relationship (SPAR). Although several mutually non-exclusive processes may produce the SPAR, the null, often ignored, hypothesis states that a SPAR can be generated by random placement alone. The log-log-transformed SPAR of coral reef fishes on small patch-reefs revealed a steep slope of 0.55. However, this slope was dependent on the cumulative area of the reef examined and was therefore affected by random placement. After statistically removing the contribution of random placement from the SPAR, the slope was estimated to be 0.21. This is consistent with estimates from other, mostly terrestrial, systems. Furthermore, a randomization procedure, where the probability of fishes to reach a patch was proportional to reef area, showed that the field measured SPAR did not differ from random placement. In addition, fish assemblages on species poor reefs did not form subsets of species rich reefs (i.e., no nestedness) beyond that expected from random placement. Steep log-log-transformed SPARs can be formed by random placement alone, indicating that caution should be used when assigning an ecological meaning to SPARs generated from small spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Nested subset
  • Red Sea
  • SPAR
  • Scale
  • Spatial distribution


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