The Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast is characterized by a strong environmental gradient from north (28.5°N) to south (16.5°N) with challenging conditions for coral growth particularly in the south (high temperature and nutrient input). We investigated whether assemblies of reef-building corals and the distribution of functional groups follow a latitudinal pattern in the Red Sea, and whether these changes affect the assembly structure of coral associated organisms (e.g. fishes). Functional groups were defined based on life-history traits and functional role. 13 reefs along the north-south gradient, including 5 potentially polluted reefs were investigated. Results showed a substantially weaker latitudinal shift in the assembly structure of coral communities than of fishes communities and of other benthic reef taxa. Competitive fast growing branching and tabular species (mainly Acropora), as well as rather stresstolerant slow growing bulky species (e.g. Porites, Goniastrea, Favites, Favia) were fairly evenly distributed along the north-south axis despite strong changes of environmental conditions. This seems on the one hand attributable to the high species richness within a given functional group (functional redundancy) and on the other hand to a high acclimatization / adaptation potential of some Red Sea coral species. The prime ecosystem service of the coral community, the provision of a habitat complex, is thereby maintained throughout the gradient. In contrast to the coral community, the assembly of the fish community shifts along the environmental gradient with higher abundances of small wrasses and butterfly fishes in the north, and overall higher abundance of fishes including large fishes in the south. This shift seems linked to higher food availability in the south. Altered assembly structures of coral communities were found in reefs close to a source of pollution with either an increased relative abundance of stresstolerant species or a general decrease of coral abundance, latter case accompanied by a substantial reduction in fish abundance.
Citation: Sawall Y, KÃ¼rten B, Hoang BX, Sommer U, Wahl M, et al. (2014) Coral Communities, in Contrast to Fish Communities, Maintain a High Assembly Similarity along the Large Latitudinal Gradient along the Saudi Red Sea Coast. J Ecosys Ecograph S4:003. doi: 10.4172/2157-7625.1000s4-003