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Evaluating The Causal Basis Of Ecological Success Within The Scleractinia: An Integral Projection Model Approach

Initially, we asked whether it was possible to identify corals that are resistant or sensitive to such conditions by compil-ing quantitative measures of their phenotypic traits deter-mined through empirical studies, but we found only weak phenotypic discrimination between ecological winners and losers, or among taxa. To reconcile this outcome with ecological evidence demonstrating that coral taxa are function-ally unequal, we looked beyond the notion that phenotypic homogeneity arose through limitations of empirical data. Instead, we examined the validity of contemporary means of categorizing corals based on ecological success. As an alternative means to distinguish among functional groups of corals, we present a demographic approach using integral projection models (IPMs) that link organismal performance to demographic outcomes, such as the rates of population Abstract Many tropical corals have declined in abun-dance in the last few decades, and evaluating the causal basis of these losses is critical to understanding how coral reefs will change in response to ongoing environmental challenges. Motivated by the likelihood that marine envi-ronments will become increasingly unfavorable for coral growth as they warm and become more acidic (i.e., ocean acidification), it is reasonable to evaluate whether specific phenotypic traits of the coral holobiont are associated with ecological success (or failure) under varying environmental conditions including those that are adverse to survival.

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