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Global patterns of community assembly on coral reefs
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  • Julie Vercelloni,
  • Chris Brown,
  • Kristen Brown,
  • Dominic Bryant,
  • M. Julian Caley,
  • Carolina Castro-Sanguino,
  • Anjani Ganase,
  • Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero,
  • Emma Kennedy,
  • Catherine Kim,
  • Sebastian Lopez-Marcano,
  • Kerrie Mengersen,
  • Camilo Mora,
  • Alan Pearse,
  • Erin Peterson,
  • Marji Puotinen,
  • Veronica Radice,
  • Alberto Rodriguez-Ramirez,
  • Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
Julie Vercelloni
Queensland University of Technology
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Chris Brown
Griffith University
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Kristen Brown
The University of Queensland
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Dominic Bryant
The University of Queensland
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M. Julian Caley
Queensland University of Technology
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Carolina Castro-Sanguino
The University of Queensland
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Anjani Ganase
Florida Institute of Technology
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Manuel Gonzalez-Rivero
The University of Queensland
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Emma Kennedy
The University of Queensland
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Catherine Kim
The University of Queensland
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Sebastian Lopez-Marcano
The University of Queensland
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Kerrie Mengersen
Queensland University of Technology
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Camilo Mora
University of Hawaii
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Alan Pearse
Queensland University of Technology
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Erin Peterson
Queensland University of Technology
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Marji Puotinen
Australian Institute of Marine Science
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Veronica Radice
The University of Queensland
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Alberto Rodriguez-Ramirez
The University of Queensland
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Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
University fo Queensland, University of Queensland
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Abstract

The structure of coral reef communities results from interacting evolutionary, ecological and environmental forces. How these factors interact in structuring these communities at a global scale, and how such effects might vary among biogeographical regions is unclear. We partitioned sources of reef community assemblage patterns by environmental, latent (i.e. unobserved), and random factors on 291 coral reefs distributed across five biogeographical regions. We then estimated how these factors were related to variations in abundance and co-occurrence among 16 functional groups. Latent factors better explained the distributions of opportunistic functional groups like algae, whereas environmental factors better explained abundance and co-occurrence of hard corals. Co-occurrence patterns revealed complex interactions between coral and algae groups that were not related to environmental factors but influenced by regional biogeography. Our results show that environmental factors are not the sole drivers of coral reef structure highlighting the importance of assemblage-level interactions and unobserved variables.