Strahler Ordering Analyses on Branching Coral Canopies: Stylophora pistillata as a Case Study

Yaniv Shmuel, Yaron Ziv, Baruch Rinkevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The three-dimensional structural complexities generated by living sessile organisms, such as trees and branching corals, embrace distinct communities of dwelling organisms, many of which are adapted to specific niches within the structure. Thus, characterizing the build-up rules and the canopy compartments may clarify small-scale biodiversity patterns and rules for canopy constituents. While biodiversity within tree canopies is usually typified by the vertical axis that is delineated by its main compartments (understory, trunk, crown), traditional studies of coral canopy dwelling species are evaluated only by viewing the whole coral head as a single homogeneous geometric structure. Here, we employ the Strahler number of a mathematical tree for the numerical measurements of the coral’s canopy complexity. We use the branching Indo-Pacific coral species Stylophora pistillata as a model case, revealing five compartments in the whole coral canopy volume (Understory, Base, Middle, Up, and Bifurcation nods). Then, the coral’s dwellers’ diel distribution patterns were quantified and analyzed. We observed 114 natal colonies, containing 32 dwelling species (11 sessile), totaling 1019 individuals during day observations, and 1359 at night (1–41 individuals/colony). Biodiversity and abundance associated with Strahler numbers, diel richness, abundance, and patterns for compartmental distributions differed significantly between day/night. These results demonstrate that the coral-canopy Strahler number is an applicable new tool for assessing canopy landscapes and canopy associated species biodiversity, including the canopy-compartmental utilization by mobile organisms during day/night and young/adult behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Canopy
  • Coral dwellers
  • Coral reef
  • Day/night observations
  • Eilat
  • Marine forest animals
  • Strahler order
  • Structure complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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