The size structure of coral populations is the culmination of key demographic events, including recruitment, mortality and growth, thereby providing important insights to recent ecological dynamics. Importantly, the size structure of corals reflects both intrinsic (inherent life-history characteristics) and extrinsic (enhanced mortality due to chronic or acute disturbances) forcing on local populations, enabling post-hoc assessment of spatial and taxonomic differences in susceptibility to disturbance. This study examined the size structure of four locally abundant corals (Acropora downingi, Favia pallida, Platygyra daedalea, and massive Porites spp.) in two regions of the Persian Gulf: the southern Gulf (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and eastern Gulf (western Musandam). Significant and consistent differences were apparent in mean colony sizes and size-distributions between regions. All corals in the southern Gulf were significantly smaller, and their size structure positively skewed and relatively more leptokurtic (i.e., peaky) compared to corals in the eastern Gulf. Sea surface temperatures, salinity, and the recent frequency of mass bleaching are all higher, in the southern Gulf, suggesting higher mortality rates and/or slower growth in these populations. Differences in size structure between locations were more pronounced than differences between species at each location, suggesting that extreme differences in environmental conditions and disturbance events have a greater influence on population dynamics in the Gulf than inherent differences in their life-history characteristics.
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