Coral Reefs

, Volume 12, Issue 3–4, pp 223–233 | Cite as

Recurrent storm disturbance and recovery: a long-term study of coral communities in Hawaii

  • S. J. Dollar
  • G. W. Tribble


Damage caused by catastrophic storm waves and subsequent recovery was investigated with a series of 15 line transects on a reef off the west coast of Hawaii over a 20-year period (1973–1993). At the initiation of the study, four zones existed across the reef, each defined by a different dominant coral species. An intermediate intensity storm in 1974 caused a decrease in coral cover from 52% to 46% of bottom cover, while breakage and transport of fragments extended the depth of peak coral cover. In 1980, a “Kona” storm, which generated the largest storm surf on record, destroyed the coral zonation pattern almost entirely. Living coral was reduced from 46% to 10% of bottom cover, with greatest damage in the zones with highest cover. Twelve years later (1992), living coral cover increased to 15% of total bottom cover. Lack of significant correlation between increase of coral cover and initial cover indicated that recovery was from larval settlement, rather than regeneration of viable fragments. Extrapolation of recovery from 1980 to 1992 indicates that the pre-storm (1973) conditions would be reached in 40 years (exponential growth) to 70 years (linear growth). In 1993, following a hurricane and unusually large northwest swell, coral cover was once again reduced to 11%; recovery was set back to a level similar to that in 1980 following the Kona storm. In 1992 and 1993 no evidence of CaCO3 accretion was observed on the reef bench. Rubble fragments created by storm stress were deposited on the reef slope with little subsequent lithification. While hurricane force waves may occur very infrequently in Hawaii, this source of stress appears to effectively limit Holocene reef growth in all areas except sheltered embayments. The pattern of damage and recovery of this coral ecosystem conforms to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, in which storms of intermediate intensity produce either an increase or decrease in diversity and cover, depending on the timing of severe storms. On a global scale, timescales of damage and recovery cycles vary substantially depending on the frequency of severe disturbances, and the adaptive capabilities of dominant species.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adey W (1978) Coral reef morphogenesis: a multidimensional model. Science (NY) 202:831–837Google Scholar
  2. Bak R, Luckhurst B (1980) Constancy and change in coral reef habitats along depth gradients at Curacao. Oecologia 47:145–155Google Scholar
  3. Ball M, Shinn E, Stockman K (1967) The geological effects of Hurricane Donna in South Florida. J Geol 75:583–597Google Scholar
  4. Banner A (1961) Submarine effects of the typhoon. Atoll Res Bull 75:75–78Google Scholar
  5. Blumenstock D (1961) A report on typhoon effects upon Jaluit Atoll. Atoll Res Bull 75:1–105Google Scholar
  6. Blumenstock D, Fosberg F, Johnson C (1961) The re-survey of typhoon effects on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Nature 189:618–620Google Scholar
  7. Brown B, Suharsono (1990) Damage and recovery of coral reefs affected by El Nino related seawater warming in the Thousand Islands, Indonesia. Coral Reefs 8:163–170Google Scholar
  8. Campbell J (1984) Rapid subsidence of Kohala volcano and its effect on coral reef growth. Geo Mar Lett 4:31–36Google Scholar
  9. Colgan M (1987) Coral reef recovery on Guam (Micronesia) after catastrophic predation by Acanthaster planci. Ecology 68(6):1592–1605Google Scholar
  10. Connell J (1978) Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302–1310Google Scholar
  11. Cooper M (1966) Destruction of marine fauna and flora in Fiji caused by the hurricane of February 1965. Pac Sci 20:137–141Google Scholar
  12. Darwin C (1842) The structure and distribution of coral reefs. D. Appleton and Co, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. D'Elia C, Buddemeier R, Smith S (eds) (1991) Workshop on coral bleaching, coral reef ecosystems and global change: report of proceedings. Maryland Sea Grant Publication no. UM-SG-TS-91-03Google Scholar
  14. Dollar S (1982) Wave stress and coral community structure in Hawaii. Coral Reefs 1:71–81Google Scholar
  15. Done T, Moran P, de Vantier L (1986) Cyclone Winifred — observations on some ecological and geomorphological effects. In: Dutton I (ed) Workshop Ser. no. 7 The offshore effects of Cyclone Winifred. GBRMPAGoogle Scholar
  16. Done T, Dayton P, Dayton A, Steger R (1991) Regional and local variability in recovery of shallow coral communities: Moorea, French Polynesia and central Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs. 9:183–192Google Scholar
  17. Endean R (1976) Destruction and recovery of coral reef communities. In: Jones OA, Endean R (eds) Biology and geology of coral reefs 2, Biology 1. Academic Press, New York, pp 162Google Scholar
  18. Easton W, Olson E (1976) Radiocarbon profile of Hanauma Bay Reef, Oahu, Hawaii. Geol Soc Am Bull 87:711–719Google Scholar
  19. Glynn P (1990) Global ecological effects of 1982–1983 El Nino-Southern Oscillation. Elsevier Series 52Google Scholar
  20. Glynn P, Almodovar L, Gonzalez J (1965) Effects of Hurricane Edith on marine life in La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Carrib J Sci 4:335–345Google Scholar
  21. Goreau T, Goreau N (1973) The ecology of Jamaican reef corals. II. Geomorphology, zonation and sedimentary phases. Bull Mar Sci 23:399–464Google Scholar
  22. Grassle J (1973) Variety in coral reef communities. In: Jones OA, Endean E (eds) Biology and geology of coral reefs, Biology 1, vol 2. Academic Press, New York, pp 247–270Google Scholar
  23. Gregory A, Kroenke L (1982) Reef development on a mid-oceanic island: reflection profiling studies of the 500-meter shelf south of Oahu. Am Assoc Pet Geol Bull 66:843–859Google Scholar
  24. Grigg R (1983) Community structure, succession and development of coral reefs in Hawaii. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 11:1–14Google Scholar
  25. Grigg R (1988) Paleoceanography of coral reefs in the Hawaiian-Emperor Chain. Science 240:1737–1743Google Scholar
  26. Grigg R, Maragos J (1974) Recolonization of hermatypic corals on submerged lava flows in Hawaii. Ecology 55:387–395Google Scholar
  27. Harmelin-Vivien M, Laboute P (1986) Catastrophic impact of hurricanes on atoll outer reef slopes in the Tuamotu (French Polynesia). Coral Reefs 5:55–62Google Scholar
  28. Hernandez-Avila M, Roberts H, Rouse L (1977) Hurricane generated waves and coastal boulder rampart formation. Proc 3rd Int Coral Reef Symp 2:71–78Google Scholar
  29. Highsmith R (1982) Reproduction by fragmentation in corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 7:207–226Google Scholar
  30. Highsmith R, Riggs A, D'Antonio C (1980) Survival of hurricane-generated coral fragments and a disturbance model of reef calcification/growth rates. Oecologia 46:322–329Google Scholar
  31. Hughes T (1989) Community structure and diversity of coral reefs: the role of history. Ecology 70(1):275–279Google Scholar
  32. Kjerfve B, Magill K, Porter J, Woodley J (1986) Hindcasting of hurricane characteristics and observed storm damage on a fringing reef, Jamaica, West Indies. J Mar Res 44:119–148Google Scholar
  33. Knowlton N, Lang J, Rooney M, Clifford P (1981) Evidence for delayed mortality in hurricane-damaged Jamaican staghorn corals. Nature 294:251–252Google Scholar
  34. Ku T, Kimmel M, Easton W, O'Neil T (1974) Eustatic sea level 120 000 years ago on Oahu, Hawaii. Science 183:959–962Google Scholar
  35. Liddell W, Ohlhorst S (1987) Patterns of reef community structure, North Jamaica. Bull Mar Sci 40(2):311–329Google Scholar
  36. Loubersac L, Dahl A, Collotte P, Lemaire I, D'Ozouville L, Grotte A (1988) Impact assessment of Cyclone Sally on the almost atoll of Aitutaki (Cook Islands) by remote sensing. In: Choat J, Barnes D, Borowitzka M (eds) Proc 6th Int Coral Reef Symp vol 2. pp 455–462.Google Scholar
  37. Lockwood J (1987) Holocene eruptive history of Mauna Loa Volcano. In: Decker R, Wright T (eds) USGS Prof Pap 1350, pp 509–535Google Scholar
  38. Loya Y (1972) Community structure and species diversity of hermatypic corals at Eilat, Red Sea. Mar Biol 13:100–123Google Scholar
  39. Ludwig K, Szabo B, Moore J, Simmons K (1991) Crustal subsidence rate off Hawaii determined form 234U/238U ages of drowned coral reefs. Geology 19:171–174Google Scholar
  40. Maragos J (1972) A study of the ecology of Hawaiian reef corals. Ph D Dissertation, University of HawaiiGoogle Scholar
  41. Maragos J, Baines G, Beveridge P (1973) Tropical cyclone Bebe creates a new land formation on Funafuti Atoll. Science 181:1161–1164Google Scholar
  42. Moore J, Normark W, Szabo B (1990) Reef growth and volcanism on the submarine southwest rift zone of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Bull Volcanol 52:375–380Google Scholar
  43. Ogg J, Koslow J (1978) The impact of typhoon Pamela (1976) on Guam's coral reefs and beaches. Pac Sci 32:105–118Google Scholar
  44. Pearson R (1981) Recovery and recolonization of coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 4:105–122Google Scholar
  45. Perkins R, Enos P (1968) Hurricane Betsy in the Florida-Bahama area-geological effects and comparison with Hurricane Donna. J Geol 76:710–717Google Scholar
  46. Pfeffer R, Tribble G (1985) Hurricane effects on an aquarium fish fishery in the Hawaiian Islands. In: Proc 5th Int Coral Reef Cong vol 3, pp 331–336Google Scholar
  47. Pielou E (1966) The measurement of diversity in different types of biological collections. J Theor Biol 13:131–144Google Scholar
  48. Porter J (1972a) Predation by Acanthaster and its effect on coral species diversity. Am Nat 106:487–492Google Scholar
  49. Porter J (1972b) Ecology and species diversity of coral reefs on opposite sides of the Isthmus of Panama. Bull Biol Sco Wash 2:89–116Google Scholar
  50. Porter J, Woodley G, Smith J, Neigel J, Battey J, Dallmeyer D (1981) Population trends among Jamaican reef corals. Nature 294:249–250Google Scholar
  51. Porter J, Battey J, Smith G (1982) Perturbation and change in coral reef communities. Proc Natl Acad Sci 79:1678–1681Google Scholar
  52. Randall R, Eldredge L (1977) Effects of typhoon Pamela on the coral reefs of Guam. Proc 3rd Int Coral Reef Symp 2:526–531Google Scholar
  53. Roberts H (1974) Variability of reefs with regard to changes in wave power around an island. Proc 2nd Int Coral Reef Symp 2:497–512Google Scholar
  54. Rogers C, Suchanek T, Pecora F (1982) Effects of Hurricanes David and Frederic (1979) on shallow Acropora palmata reef communities: St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Bull Mar Sci 32(2):532–548Google Scholar
  55. Shaw SL (1981) A history of tropical cyclones in the central north Pacific and the Hawaiian Islands 1832–1979. US Deptartment of Commerce, National Weather Service ReportGoogle Scholar
  56. Shinn E (1976) Coral reef recovery in Florida and the Persian Gulf. Environ Geol 1:241–254Google Scholar
  57. Stearns H (1978) Quaternary shorelines in the Hawaiian Islands. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bull 237, HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  58. Stoddart D (1963) Effects of Hurricane Hattie on the British Honduras reefs and cays, October 30–31, 1961. Atoll Res Bull 95:1–142Google Scholar
  59. Stoddart D (1969) Post-hurricane changes on the British Honduras reefs and cays: re-survey of 1965. Atoll Res Bull 13:1–25Google Scholar
  60. Stoddart D (1974) Post-hurricane changes on the British Honduras reefs: re-survey of 1972. Proc 2nd Int Coral Reef Symp 2:473–483Google Scholar
  61. Storr J (1964) Ecology and oceanography of the coral reef tract, Abaco Island, Bahamas. Geo Soc Am Spec Pap 79:1–98Google Scholar
  62. Tsutsui B, Campbell J, Colbourn W (1987) Storm-generated, episodic sediment movements off Kahe Point, Oahu, Hawaii. Mar Geol 76:281–299Google Scholar
  63. Tunnicliffe V (1981) Breakage and propagation of the stony coral Acropora cervicornis. Proc Natl Acad Sci 78:2427–2431Google Scholar
  64. Walbran P, Henderson R, Jull A, Head M (1989) Evidence from sediments of long-term Acanthaster planci predation on corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Science 245:847–850Google Scholar
  65. Walsh W (1983) Stability of a coral reef fish community following a catastrophic storm. Coral Reefs 2:49–63Google Scholar
  66. Woodley J, et al. (1981) Hurricane Allen's impact on Jamaican coral reefs. Science 214:749–755Google Scholar
  67. Yonge C (1940) The biology of reef-building corals. Great Barrier Reef Expedition 1928–1929. Sci Rep 1:353–391Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. J. Dollar
    • 1
  • G. W. Tribble
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Ocean and Earth Science and TechnologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations