Brian R. Silliman's research while affiliated with Duke University Marine Lab and other places

Publications (243)

Article
Biogeomorphic wetlands cover 1% of Earth’s surface but store 20% of ecosystem organic carbon. This disproportional share is fueled by high carbon sequestration rates and effective storage in peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows, which greatly exceed those of oceanic and forest ecosystems. Here, we review how feedbacks between ge...
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Coral disease is becoming increasingly problematic on reefs worldwide. However, most coral disease research has focused on the abiotic drivers of disease, potentially overlooking the role of species interactions in disease dynamics. Coral predators in particular can influence disease by breaking through protective tissues and exposing corals to inf...
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Habitat heterogeneity is considered a primary causal driver underpinning patterns of diversity, yet the universal role of heterogeneity in structuring biodiversity is unclear due to a lack of coordinated experiments testing its effects across geographic scales and habitat types. Furthermore, key species interactions that can enhance heterogeneity,...
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In coastal wetlands and tropical reefs, snails can regulate foundation species by feeding on marsh grasses and hard corals. In many cases, their impacts are amplified because they facilitate microbial infection in grazer-induced wounds. Whether snails commonly graze live plants and facilitate microbial growth on plants in tropical seagrass systems...
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Marine oil spills continue to be a global issue, heightened by spill events such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest marine oil spill in US waters and among the largest worldwide, affecting over 1,000 km of sensitive wetland shorelines, primarily salt marshes supporting numerous ecosystem functions. To synthesize...
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Invasive consumers can cause extensive ecological damage to native communities but effects on ecosystem resilience are less understood. Here, we use drone surveys, manipulative experiments, and mathematical models to show how feral hogs reduce resilience in southeastern US salt marshes by dismantling an essential marsh cordgrass-ribbed mussel mutua...
Article
Feral hogs modify ecosystems by consuming native species and altering habitat structure. These invasions can generate fundamentally different post‐invasion habitats when disturbance changes community structure, ecosystem function, or recovery dynamics. Here, we use multiple three‐year exclusion experiments to describe how feral hogs affect hyper‐pr...
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The world has increasingly relied on protected areas (PAs) to rescue highly valued ecosystems from human activities, but whether PAs will fare well with bioinvasions remains unknown. By analyzing three decades of seven of the largest coastal PAs in China, including World Natural Heritage and/or Wetlands of International Importance sites, we show th...
Article
Halophila stipulacea, a seagrass native to the Indian Ocean, spread to the Caribbean in 2002. Few studies have explored the spatiotemporal distribution of H. stipulacea throughout the Caribbean and whether native invertebrates utilize this non-native seagrass as habitat. We surveyed the shallow, nearshore subtidal zones of four bays in St. John, US...
Article
Infrastructure must become more resilient as the global climate changes and also more affordable in the economic and political context of a post-COVID world. We can solve this dual challenge and drive global infrastructure investment into a more sustainable direction by taking our cues from Nature.
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The red lionfish, Pterois volitans, is a successful invasive predator across the western North Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. The southeast coast of Florida (USA) has been identified as the original introduction location, but genetic analyses including Florida lionfish have yet to investigate introduction scenarios. Here, we assessed the...
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Consumers can structure plant communities and may function as keystone species or ecosystem engineers. In salt marshes, the prevailing paradigm has shifted in recent decades from nearly complete focus on bottom‐up processes to inclusion of top‐down effects. Although the number of studies investigating top‐down control continues to climb, few experi...
Article
Coral bleaching has impacted reefs worldwide and the predictions of near‐annual bleaching from over two decades ago have now been realized. While technology currently provides the means to predict large‐scale bleaching, predicting reef‐scale and within‐reef patterns in real‐time for all reef users is limited. In 2020, heat stress across the Great B...
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1‐ Climate change is generating extreme climate events, affecting ecosystem integrity and function directly through increases in abiotic stress and disturbance and indirectly through changes in the strength of biotic interactions. As consumers play an essential role in ecosystem functioning and have been shown to be highly sensitive to climate cond...
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Restoration is increasingly utilized as a strategy to stymie the loss of coastal habitats. Coastal habitat restoration has predominantly emphasized designs that minimize physical stress and competition. As evidence of the pervasiveness of this approach, we conducted a global survey of seagrass restorationers and found a strong affinity for stress-a...
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Ecological restoration is emerging as an important strategy to improve the recovery of degraded lands and to combat habitat and biodiversity loss worldwide. One central unresolved question revolves around the optimal spatial design for outplanted propagules that maximizes restoration success. Essentially, two contrasting paradigms exist: the first...
Article
Restoration has been increasingly adopted to halt trends in coastal wetland loss globally. Existing restoration often assumes that once abiotic stress is relieved, disturbances are prevented, and invasive species are eradicated, coastal wetlands will recover if propagules of native species are supplied either through natural dispersal or planting....
Article
Human-driven changes to aquatic environments threaten small-scale fisheries (SSFs). Ensuring a livable future for SSFs in the Anthropocene requires incorporating ecological knowledge of these diverse multi-species systems beyond the long-standing reliance on populations, a management paradigm adopted from industrial fisheries. Assessing the state o...
Chapter
The rapid degradation of ecosystems jeopardizes the services they provide. Among the most valuable of these services is protection of coastlines by shoreline ecological communities, such as coral reefs, mangroves and salt marshes. Currently, coastal protection potential of ecosystems is estimated primarily as a function of their spatial extent and...
Article
Despite escalating anthropogenic alteration of food webs, how the carbon cycle in ecosystems is regulated by food web processes remains poorly understood. We quantitatively synthesize the effects of consumers (herbivores, omnivores and carnivores) on the carbon cycle of coastal wetland ecosystems, ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems that store the greatest am...
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The United Nations General Assembly calls for ecosystem restoration to be a primary intervention strategy used to counter the continued loss of natural habitats worldwide, while supporting human health and wellbeing globally. Restoration of coastal marine ecosystems is perceived by many to be expensive and prone to failure, in part explaining its l...
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Background Tropical coastal marine ecosystems (TCMEs) are rich in biodiversity and provide many ecosystem services, including carbon storage, shoreline protection, and food. Coastal areas are home to increasing numbers of people and population growth is expected to continue, putting TCMEs under pressure from development as well as broader environme...
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Megafauna shape ecosystems globally through trophic interactions, ecology of fear, and ecosystem engineering. Highly productive salt marshes at the interface of terrestrial and marine systems have the potential to support megafauna species, but a recent global meta-analysis of consumer-plant interactions in marshes found few studies investigated im...
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Coastal marine ecosystems provide critical goods and services to humanity but many are experiencing rapid degradation. The need for effective restoration tools capable of promoting large-scale recovery of coastal ecosystems in the face of intensifying climatic stress has never been greater. We identify four major challenges for more effective imple...
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Understanding patterns of habitat use by newborn-sized animals is critical to conserving threatened species and their potential nursery grounds. Giant Shovelnose Rays (Glaucostegus typus) are Critically Endangered but at least locally abundant in the Australian portion of their range, providing an opportunity in Australia to understand what types o...
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The global distribution of primary production and consumption by humans (fisheries) is well-documented, but we have no map linking the central ecological process of consumption within food webs to temperature and other ecological drivers. Using standardized assays that span 105° of latitude on four continents, we show that rates of bait consumption...
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As coral populations decline across the Caribbean, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the forces that inhibit coral survivorship and recovery. Predation by corallivores, such as the short coral snail Coralliophila abbreviata, are one such threat to coral health and recovery worldwide, but current understanding of the factors contro...
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Large predators play important ecological roles, yet many are disproportionately imperiled. In marine systems, artificial reefs are often deployed to restore degraded reefs or supplement existing reefs, but it remains unknown whether these interventions benefit large predators. Comparative field surveys of thirty artificial and natural reefs across...
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Over 85% of the world's oyster reefs have been lost in the past two centuries, triggering a global effort to restore shellfish reef ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide. While there has been considerable success in re-establishing oyster reefs, many challenges remain. These include: high incidence of failed restoration, high cost of r...
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Restoration is becoming a vital tool to counteract coastal ecosystem degradation. Modifying transplant designs of habitat-forming organisms from dispersed to clumped can amplify coastal restoration yields as it generates self-facilitation from emergent traits, i.e. traits not expressed by individuals or small clones, but that emerge in clumped indi...
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Kelp forests are highly productive foundation species along much of the world’s coastline. As a result, kelp are crucial to the ecological, social, and economic well-being of coastal communities. Yet, due to a combination of acute and chronic stressors, kelp forests are under threat and have declined in many locations worldwide. Active restoration...
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In an era of rapid coastal population expansion and habitat degradation, restoration is becoming an increasingly important strategy for combating coastal habitat loss and maintaining ecosystem services. In particular, techniques that use habitat restoration alone or restoration in combination with built infrastructure to provide coastal protective...
Article
Large predators exert control on lower trophic levels, often influencing long-term changes in community structure. Many large predators are highly mobile and occur along a continuum of presence and absence on habitats. In many natural systems, the movement of large predators through an area has been shown to lead to rapid changes in prey distributi...
Article
Researchers now recognize the importance of the coral microbiome, but they often overlook other species that live on corals and influence coral–microbe interactions. These ‘interstitial associates’ should be incorporated into the metaorganism concept for insights into how facilitations between associates, corals, and their microbiomes can be levera...
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Seagrasses provide multiple ecosystem services including nursery habitat, improved water quality, coastal protection, and carbon sequestration. However, seagrasses are in crisis as global coverage is declining at an accelerating rate. With increased focus on ecological restoration as a conservation strategy, methods that enhance restoration success...
Chapter
This chapter reviews how marine ecosystems respond to parasites. Evidence from several marine ecosystems shows that parasites can wield control over ecosystem structure, function, and dynamics by regulating host density and phenotype. Like predators, parasites can generate or modify trophic cascades, regulate important foundational species and ecos...
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Researchers now recognize that top-down as well as bottom-up forces regulate salt marsh primary production. However, how top-down forces vary with grazer density is still poorly resolved. To begin to address this void, we (1) surveyed grazing intensity in short-form Spartina alterniflora across Sapelo Island, Georgia (USA), and (2) removed varying...
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Recovering species are often limited to much smaller areas than they historically occupied. Conservation planning for the recovering species is often based on this limited range, which may simply be an artifact of where the surviving population persisted. Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were hunted nearly to extinction but recovered fro...
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An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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Coastal zones, the world's most densely populated regions, are increasingly threatened by climate change stressors - rising and warming seas, intensifying storms and droughts, and acidifying oceans. Although coastal zones have been affected by local human activities for centuries, how local human impacts and climate change stressors may interact to...
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Parasites are more diverse and numerous than their hosts and commonly control population dynamics. Whether parasites also regulate key ecosystem processes, such as resistance to climate stress, is unclear. In southern U.S. salt marshes, drought interacts synergistically with keystone grazing to generate extensive ecosystem die‐off. Field manipulati...
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The term Blue Carbon (BC) was first coined a decade ago to describe the disproportionately large contribution of coastal vegetated ecosystems to global carbon sequestration. The role of BC in climate change mitigation and adaptation has now reached international prominence. To help prioritise future research, we assembled leading experts in the fie...
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Bacterial symbionts are integral to the health and homeostasis of invertebrate hosts. Notably, members of the Rickettsiales genus Wolbachia influence several aspects of the fitness and evolution of their terrestrial hosts, but few analogous partnerships have been found in marine systems. We report here the genome, phylogenetics, and biogeography of...
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In 2014 a DNA‐based phylogenetic study confirming the paraphyly of the grass subtribe Sporobolinae proposed the creation of a large monophyletic genus Sporobolus, including (among others) species previously included in the genera Spartina, Calamovilfa, and Sporobolus. Spartina species have contributed substantially (and continue contributing) to ou...
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Spatial planning increasingly incorporates theoretical predictions that artificial habitats assist species movement at or beyond range edges, yet evidence for this is uncommon. We conducted surveys of highly mobile fauna (fishes) on artificial habitats (reefs) on the southeastern USA continental shelf to test whether, in comparison to natural reefs...
Article
Increasing rates of sea-level rise and wave action threaten coastal populations. Defense of shorelines by protection and restoration of wetlands has been invoked as a win-win strategy for humans and nature, yet evidence from field experiments supporting the wetland protection function is uncommon, as is the understanding of its context dependency....
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Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They generate critical services for humans including shoreline protection, carbon storage, pollution mitigation, and fisheries production. Restoration of coastal wetlands has historically been viewed as a secondary conservation strategy, but recently-given the continued loss of...
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Invertebrate diversity can be a key driver of ecosystem functioning, yet understanding what factors influence local biodiversity remains uncertain. In many marine and terrestrial systems, facilitation cascades where primary foundation and/or autogenic ecosystem engineering species promote the settlement and survival of a secondary foundation/engine...
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Cascading consequences of predator extinctions are well documented, but impacts of perturbations to predator size‐structure and how these vary across species remain unclear. Body size is hypothesized to be a key trait governing individual predators' impact on ecosystems. Therefore, shifts in predator size‐structure should trigger ecosystem ramifica...
Article
Prolonged droughts exacerbated by climate change have been widely documented to interact with consumers to decimate vegetation in many ecosystems. Although climate change is also increasing within‐year variation in precipitation and temperature, how weather fluctuations affect the impact of consumers on vegetation processes remains poorly understoo...
Preprint
Recent large-scale analyses suggest that local management actions may not protect coral reefs from climate change, yet most local threat-reduction strategies have not been tested experimentally. We show that removing coral predators is a common local action used by managers across the world, and that removing the corallivorous snail Coralliophila a...
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In the version of this Brief Communication originally published, the two instances of 'natural-to-high' in the sixth and seventh paragraphs were incorrect; they should have read 'naturally high'.
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Recent large-scale analyses suggest that local management actions may not protect coral reefs from climate change, yet most local threat-reduction strategies have not been tested experimentally. We show that removing coral predators is a common local action used by managers across the world, and that removing the corallivorous snail Coralliophila a...
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Full-text available
Climate change and consumer outbreaks are driving ecosystem collapse worldwide. Although much research has demonstrated that these factors can interact, how heterogeneity in top–down control intensity and physical forcing modulates ecosystem resilience to climate stress remains poorly understood. Here, we explore whether the nocturnal herbivorous c...
Article
Consumer–prey interactions form the foundation of food webs and are affected by the physical environment. Multiple foundational theories in ecology [e.g., the environmental stress model (ESM), the stress–gradient hypothesis (SGH), and ecosystem resilience theory] assume increased physical stress dampens top-down control of prey. In the large majori...
Article
Humans have decimated populations of large-bodied consumers and their functions in most of the world's ecosystems. It is less clear how human activities have affected the diversity of habitats these consumers occupy. Rebounding populations of some predators after conservation provides an opportunity to begin to investigate this question. Recent res...