Coral Reefs

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 939–950 | Cite as

Decadal coral community reassembly on an African fringing reef

  • T. R. McClanahan


Changes in the cover of the dominant hard coral taxa were studied on seven Kenyan back reefs over 20 yr. All factors of time, taxa, site, and their interactions were statistically significant and the 1998 temperature anomaly caused the greatest community changes. The 1998 disturbance changes reflected a classic coral succession, which included partial or little mortality and persistence of stress tolerant (massive and submassive growth forms) and early colonization by weedy taxa (pocilloporids). Nevertheless, competitive taxa had high and full mortality and the expected dominance of acroporids was inhibited even ~13 yr after the disturbance. So, while total hard coral cover displayed the expected logistic recovery where maximum cover was reached <10 yr after the disturbance, the poor recovery of competitive dominants resulted in less than expected coral cover. A number of stress-resistant and weedy taxa (poritids, agaricidae, faviids, and pocilloporids) are expected to dominate the composition of these reefs in the future. Nevertheless, three submassive faviids and branching Porites began to decline toward the end of the time series, indicating further stress after 1998. Increased algal cover and other unstudied factors, including milder warming, may explain these changes. The patterns of change on this continental fringing reef differ from recovery of more remote, offshore islands. This probably reflects low acroporid dominance and recruitment limitations associated with greater anthropogenic influences of high sea urchin grazing and terrestrial runoff.


Community change Climate adaption Ecological succession El Niño Species replacement 



This work was supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and supported by a number of organizations, including the Pew Charitable Trust, Tiffany Foundation, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science for Management Program. Clearance to do research in Kenya was provided by Kenya’s Office of Science and Technology and in the parks by Kenya Wildlife Services. Many people assisted with the monitoring including R. Arthur, E. Darling, C. Hicks, R. Kiambo, A. T. Kamukuru, B. Kaunda-Arara, J. Kawaka, R. Machaku, H. Machano Ali, S. Mangi, J. Maina, J. Mariara, R. Moothien-Pillay, J. Mutere, N. A. Muthiga, S. Mwacheriya, J. Ndagala, J. Omukoto, and M. J. Rodrigues.


  1. Arnold SN, Steneck RS, Mumby PJ (2010) Running the gauntlet: inhibitory effects of algal turfs on the processes of coral recruitment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 414:91–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ateweberhan M, McClanahan TR (2010) Relationship between historical sea-surface temperature variability and climate change-induced coral mortality in the Western Indian Ocean. Mar Pollut Bull 60:964–970PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ateweberhan M, McClanahan TR, Graham NAJ, Sheppard CRC (2011) Episodic heterogeneous decline and recovery of coral cover in the Indian Ocean. Coral Reefs 30:739–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baird AH, Hughes TP (2000) Competitive dominance by tabular corals: an experimental analysis of recruitment and survival of understorey assemblages. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 251:117–132PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baird AH, Marshall PA (2002) Mortality, growth and reproduction in scleractinian corals following bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 237:133–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baker AC, Glynn PW, Riegl B (2008) Climate change and coral reef bleaching: an ecological assessment of the long-term impacts, recovery trends and future outlooks. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 80:435–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baker AC, McClanahan TR, Starger CJ, Boonstra RK (2013) Long-term monitoring of algal symbiont communities in corals reveals stability is taxon dependent and driven by site-specific thermal regime. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 479:85–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brandt ME, McManus JW (2009) Disease incidence is related to bleaching extent in reef-building corals. Ecology 90:2859–2867PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carreiro-Silva M, McClanahan T (2012) Macrobioerosion of dead branching Porites, 4 to 6 yr after coral mass mortality. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 458:103–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Darling ES, McClanahan TR, Corte IM (2013) Life histories predict coral community disassembly under multiple stressors. Glob Chang Biol 19:1930–1940PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Darling ES, Alvarez-Filip L, Oliver TA, McClanahan TR, Cote IM (2012) Evaluating life history strategies of reef corals from species traits. Ecol Lett 15:1378–1386PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diaz-Pulido G, McCook LJ, Dove S, Berkelmans R, Roff G, Kline DI, Weeks S, Evans RD, Williamson DH, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2009) Doom and boom on a resilient reef: climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery. PLoS One 4:e5239PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Done T, Turak E, Wakeford M, DeVantier L, McDonald A, Fisk D (2007) Decadal changes in turbid-water coral communities at Pandora Reef: Loss of resilience or too soon to tell? Coral Reefs 26:789–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fabricius K, De’ath G (2001) Environmental factors associated with the spatial distribution of crustose coralline algae on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 19:303–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gilmour JP, Smith LD, Heyward AJ, Baird AH, Pratchett MS (2013) Recovery of an isolated coral reef system following severe disturbance. Science 340:69–71PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glynn PW, Feingold JS (1992) Hydrocoral species not extinct. Science 257:1845–1847CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goreau T, McClanahan T, Hayes R, Strong A (2000) Conservation of coral reefs after the 1998 global bleaching event. Conserv Biol 14:5–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Graham NAJ, Nash K, Kool J (2011) Coral reef recovery dynamics in a changing world. Coral Reefs 30:283–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grime JP (1979) Plant strategies and vegetation processes. John Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  20. Johns KA, Osborne KO, Logan M (2014) Contrasting rates of coral recovery and reassembly in coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs. doi: 10.1007/s00338-014-1148-z
  21. Harrington L, Fabricius FH, De’ath G, Negri A (2004) Recognition and selection of settlement substrata determines post-settlement survival in corals. Ecology 85:3428–3437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Bruno JF (2010) The impact of climate change on the world’s marine ecosystems. Science 328:1423–1428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McClanahan T (2000) Bleaching damage and recovery potential of Maldivian coral reefs. Mar Pollut Bull 40:587–597CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McClanahan TR (2008) Response of the coral reef benthos and herbivory to fishery closure management and the 1998 ENSO disturbance. Oecologia 155:169–177PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McClanahan TR (2014) Recovery of functional groups and trophic relationships in tropical fisheries closures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 497:12–23Google Scholar
  26. McClanahan TR, Shafir SH (1990) Causes and consequences of sea urchin abundance and diversity in Kenyan coral reef lagoons. Oecologia 83:362–370Google Scholar
  27. McClanahan TR, Mutere JC (1994) Coral and sea urchin assemblage structure and interrelationships in Kenyan reef lagoons. Hydrobiologia 286:109–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McClanahan TR, Maina J (2003) Response of coral assemblages to the interaction between natural temperature variation and rare warm-water events. Ecosystems 6:551–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McClanahan TR, Muthiga NA, Mangi S (2001) Coral and algal changes after the 1998 coral bleaching: Interaction with reef management and herbivores on Kenyan reefs. Coral Reefs 19:380–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McClanahan TR, Ateweberhan M, Omukoto J (2008) Long-term changes in coral colony size distributions on Kenyan reefs under different management regimes and across the 1998 bleaching event. Mar Biol 153:755–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McClanahan TR, Weil E, Maina J (2009) Strong relationship between coral bleaching and growth anomalies in massive Porites. Glob Chang Biol 15:1804–1816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McClanahan TR, Steneck RS, Pietri D, Cokos B, Jones S (2005) Interaction between inorganic nutrients and organic matter in controlling coral reef communities in Glovers Reef Belize. Mar Pollut Bull 50:566–575PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McClanahan TR, McLaughlin SM, Davy JE, Wilson WH, Peters EC, Price KL, Maina J (2004) Observations of a new source of coral mortality along the Kenyan coast. Hydrobiologia 530(531):469–479Google Scholar
  34. McClanahan TR, Donner SD, Maynard JA, MacNeil MA, Graham NAJ, Maina J, Baker AC, Beger M, Campbell SJ, Darling ES (2012) Prioritizing key resilience indicators to support coral reef management in a changing climate. PLoS One 7:e42884PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCook LJ, Jompa J, Diaz-Pulido G (2001) Competition between corals and algae on coral reefs: a review of evidence and mechanisms. Coral Reefs 19:400–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Miller J, Muller E, Rogers C, Waara R, Atkinso A, Whelan KRT, Patterson M, Witcher B (2009) Coral disease following massive bleaching in 2005 causes 60% decline in coral cover on reefs in the US Virgin Island. Coral Reefs 28:925–937CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Morse ANC, Iwao K, Baba M, Shimoike K, Hayashibara T, Omori M (1996) An ancient chemosensory mechanism brings new life to coral reefs. Biol Bull 191:149–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Negri AP, Webster NS, Hill RT, Heyward AJ (2001) Metamorphosis of broadcast spawning corals in response to bacteria isolated from crustose algae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 223:121–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. O’Leary J, McClanahan T (2010) Trophic cascades result in large-scale coralline algae loss through differential grazer effects. Ecology 91:3584–3597PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. O’Leary JK, Potts DC (2011) Using hierarchical sampling to understand scales of spatial variation in early coral recruitment. Coral Reefs 30:1013–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Leary J, Potts D, Braga J, McClanahan T (2012) Indirect consequences of fishing: reduction of coralline algae suppresses juvenile coral abundance. Coral Reefs 31:547–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Price N (2010) Habitat selection, facilitation, and biotic settlement cues affect distribution and performance of coral recruits in French Polynesia. Oecologia 163:747–758PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sall J, Lehmaan A, Creighton L (2001) JMP Start Statistics. Thomson Learning, DuxburyGoogle Scholar
  44. Sheppard CRC, Harris A, Sheppard ALS (2008) Archipelago-wide coral recovery patterns since 1998 in the Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 362:109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Smith TB, Brandt ME, Calnan JM, Nemeth RS, Blondeau J, Kadison E, Taylor M, Rothenberger P (2013) Convergent mortality responses of Caribbean coral species to seawater warming. Ecosphere 4:Article 87Google Scholar
  46. van Woesik R, Sakai K, Ganase A, Loya Y (2011) Revisiting the winners and loser a decade after coral bleaching. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 434:67–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. van Woesik R, Franklin EC, O’Leary JK, McClanahan TR, Klaus JS, Budd AF (2012) Hosts of the Plio-Pleistocene past reflect modern-day coral vulnerability. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 279:2448–2456CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine ProgramsWildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA

Personalised recommendations