Environmental matching used to predict range expansion of two invasive corals (Tubastraea spp.).
The scleractinian corals Tubastraea coccinea Lesson, 1829 and T. tagusensis Wells, 1982 have invaded reefs along Brazil's coastline. Over the period 2011-2017 a standard, fast, easily repeatable semi-quantitative method was used to produce maps of distribution and a site (n=77) specific Relative Abundance Index (RAI) to determine range expansion at Cabo Frio, an upwelling region. Invaded sites doubled from six to 12 over the period (one per year) and mean abundance increased tenfold from 0.2 to 2.6 RAI and 0.22 to 1.8 RAI (T. coccinea and T. tagusensis respectively). Site specific oceanographic conditions (temperature, salinity and water transparency) and distance from currently invaded sites (a proxy for propagule pressure) were chosen and used as determinants of invasion success in order to model the expansion. Model results compared favourably with empirical measurements and the simple, regional, and spatially explicit model predicted future range expansion under 10 and 20 year scenarios.