, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 109-120

Impact of hurricane Firinga on fish community structure on fringing reefs of Reunion Island, S.W. Indian Ocean

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The reef flats of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Leu (Reunion Island, Indian Ocean) suffered badly from hurricane Firinga on 29 January 1989. The high degree of silting due to increased run-off killed the coral colonies. Fish communities were surveyed at four periods following the hurricane (March and September 1989, March and September 1990). An increase in both species richness (31 to 47 spp. per census) and abundance (169 to 265 individuals per census) of fishes was observed with time, along with changes in their trophic structure. This positive succession may be linked to the disappearance of the silt layer from reef flats since September 1989. Nevertheless, there were differences in fluctuations and trophic structure of the fish community between back-, inner- and outer-reef flats. Finally, differences in recovery between the two reefs are related to the overall environmental degradation of the Island, chiefly by human perturbation, prior to the hurricane.