Temporal patterns of coral cover in the offshore Pilbara, Western Australia


Patterns of hard coral cover and benthic composition were assessed at seven sites around Barrow Island in the Pilbara region of Western Australia between 2008 and 2013. While the per cent hard coral cover around Barrow Island was relatively stable between 2009 and 2012, there was a 69.3 % proportional change in hard coral cover between 2012 and 2013. Concomitant with this decline, Principle Coordinates Analysis showed a shift towards turf/coralline algae and there was a reduction in the proportion of the Acroporidae and a relative increase in the proportion of the Poritidae at most sites. During early 2013, sea surface temperatures around Barrow Island rose above seasonal averages, reaching 7.4 °C-weeks (degree heating weeks) from late February 2013 to mid-April 2013, and the decline in hard coral cover and shifts in benthic composition appear to be related to mortality associated with a coral bleaching event in early 2013.

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Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which improved the manuscript. This work was supported by BMT Oceanica Pty Ltd.


Funding was provided by BMT Oceanica Pty Ltd and a confidential partner.

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Correspondence to T. Ridgway.

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This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. All observations and measurements were of a non-destructive nature.

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Ridgway, T., Inostroza, K., Synnot, L. et al. Temporal patterns of coral cover in the offshore Pilbara, Western Australia. Mar Biol 163, 182 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-016-2956-1

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  • Tropical Cyclone
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Coral Cover
  • Western Australia
  • Coral Bleaching