Recurrent disturbances, recovery trajectories, and resilience of coral assemblages on a South Central Pacific reef
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Coral reefs are increasingly threatened by various disturbances, and a critical challenge is to determine their ability for resistance and resilience. Coral assemblages in Moorea, French Polynesia, have been impacted by multiple disturbances (one cyclone and four bleaching events between 1991 and 2006). The 1991 disturbances caused large declines in coral cover (~51% to ~22%), and subsequent colonization by turf algae (~16% to ~49%), but this phase-shift from coral to algal dominance has not persisted. Instead, the composition of the coral community changed following the disturbances, notably favoring an increased cover of Porites, reduced cover of Montipora and Pocillopora, and a full return of Acropora; in this form, the reef returned to pre-disturbance coral cover within a decade. Thus, this coral assemblage is characterized by resilience in terms of coral cover, but plasticity in terms of community composition.
KeywordsCoral Bleaching Cyclone Phase-shift Resilience Moorea
This research was supported by grants from the Total Foundation, CRISP, BioAqua, and the US National Science Foundation grant BIO-OCE 04-17412 (to PJE).
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