Coral Reefs

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 647–653 | Cite as

Recovery without resilience: persistent disturbance and long-term shifts in the structure of fish and coral communities at Tiahura Reef, Moorea

  • Michael L. BerumenEmail author
  • Morgan S. Pratchett


Disturbances have a critical effect on the structure of natural communities. In this study long-term changes were examined in the reef community at Tiahura Reef, on the northern coast of Moorea, which had been subject to many and varied disturbances over the last 25 years. Tiahura Reef was subject to an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) in 1980–1981, causing significant declines in the abundance of scleractinian corals and butterflyfishes. By 2003, the abundance of corals and butterflyfishes had returned to former levels, but despite this apparent recovery, the species composition of coral communities and butterflyfish assemblages was very different from those recorded in 1979. Ongoing disturbances (including further outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, cyclones, and coral bleaching events) appear to have prevented recovery of many important coral species (notably, Acropora spp.), which has had subsequent effects on the community structure of coral-feeding butterflyfishes. This study shows that recurrent disturbances may have persistent effects on the structure and dynamics of natural communities.


Community structure Alternate stable states Chaetodontidae Scleractinia Coral reefs Corallivore 



Fieldwork was conducted at CRIOBE station on Moorea, as part of a postdoctoral research position awarded to MSP from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Universite de Perpignan. D. Pratchett provided field assistance. Comments from P. Munday and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook University of North QueenslandTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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