Serial patterns of biodiversity change in corals across shallow reef flats in Ko Phuket, Thailand, due to the effects of local (sedimentation) and regional (climatic) perturbations
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A 17-year monitoring programme of reef flats at Ko Phuket, Thailand afforded an opportunity to evaluate both univariate and multivariate measures of environmental stress in an assessment of change on coral reef ecosystems. The sites at Ko Phuket suffered the effects of dredging in 1986–1987 and then anomalously low sea levels in 1997–1998 as a result of climate-related events in the Indian Ocean. Univariate measures of species diversity and taxonomic distinctness (Δ*) increased across the reef flat, reflecting the greater effects of physical stresses on the inner reef flats (compared with outer reef flats) at all sites, with more congeneric species present on the inner reef and more confamilial species on the outer reef. Multivariate measures showed a clear breakdown in seriation patterns at all sites during the dredging in 1987 and in 1998, as a result of earlier negative sea-level anomalies. Recovery from environmental disturbances was obvious within 12 months in each case. The domination of the reefs by massive coral species, which are physiologically adapted to intertidal living and which display partial rather than total colony mortality, may be a factor contributing to the apparent resilience of the reef flats together with continued recruitment and survival of juvenile corals during adverse environmental conditions. Elevated sea temperatures and extensive bleaching of corals in 1991, 1995, and 1998 had no effect upon coral community measures, with many corals recovering their zooxanthellae numbers within 3–5 months of the bleaching events.
KeywordsCoral Reef Reef Flat Coral Reef Ecosystem Outer Reef Juvenile Coral
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