Coral Reefs

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 183–193 | Cite as

Recent disturbances augment community shifts in coral assemblages in Moorea, French Polynesia

  • M. S. Pratchett
  • M. Trapon
  • M. L. Berumen
  • K. Chong-Seng
Report

Abstract

Coral reefs are often subject to disturbances that can cause enduring changes in community structure and abundance of coral reef organisms. In Moorea, French Polynesia, frequent disturbances between 1979 and 2003 caused marked shifts in taxonomic composition of coral assemblages. This study explores recent changes in live cover and taxonomic structure of coral communities on the north coast of Moorea, French Polynesia, to assess whether coral assemblages are recovering (returning to a previous Acropora-dominated state) or continuing to move towards an alternative community structure. Coral cover declined by 29.7% between July 2003 and March 2009, mostly due to loss of Acropora and Montipora spp. Coral mortality varied among habitats, with highest levels of coral loss on the outer reef slope (7–20 m depth). In contrast, there was limited change in coral cover within the lagoon, and coral cover actually increased on the reef crest. Observed changes in coral cover and composition correspond closely with the known feeding preferences and observed spatial patterns of Acanthaster planci L., though observed coral loss also coincided with at least one episode of coral bleaching, as well as persistent populations of the corallivorous starfish Culcita novaeguineae Muller & Troschel. While climate change poses an important and significant threat to the future structure and dynamics coral reef communities, outbreaks of A. planci remain a significant cause of coral loss in Moorea. More importantly, these recent disturbances have followed long-term shifts in the structure of coral assemblages, and the relative abundance of both Pocillopora and Porites continue to increase due to disproportionate losses of Acropora and Montipora. Moreover, Pocillopora and Porites dominate assemblages of juvenile corals, suggesting that there is limited potential for a return to an Acropora-dominated state, last recorded in 1979.

Keywords

Disturbance Resilience Coral reefs Acanthaster planci Bleaching Pacific 

References

  1. Adjeroud M, Augustin D, Galzin R, Bernard S (2002) Natural disturbances and interannual variability of coral reef communities on the outer slope of Tiahura (Moorea, French Polynesia): 1991–1997. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 237:121–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adjeroud M, Michonneau F, Edmunds PJ, Chancerelle Y, Lison de Loma T, Penin L, Thibaut L, Vidal-Dupiol J, Salvat B, Galzin R (2009) Recurrent disturbances, recovery trajectories, and resilience of coral assemblages on a South Central Pacific reef. Coral Reefs 28:775–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aronson RB, MacIntyre IG, Wapnick CM, O’Neill MW (2004) Phase shifts, alternative states, and the unprecendented convergence of two reef systems. Ecology 85:1876–1891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 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
  5. Baker AC, Glynn PW, Riegl B (2008) Climate change and coral reef bleaching: An ecological assessment of long-term impacts, recovery trends and future outlook. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 80:435–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bellwood DR, Hoey AS, Choat JH (2003) Limited functional redundancy in high diversity systems: resilience and ecosystem function on coral reefs. Ecol Lett 6:281–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berumen ML, Pratchett MS (2006) Recovery without resilience: persistent disturbance and long-term shifts in the structure of fish and coral communities at Tiahura Reef, Moorea. Coral Reefs 25:647–653CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Birkeland C, Lucas JS (1990) Acanthaster planci: major management problem of coral reefs. CRC Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  9. Bouchon C (1985) Quantitative study of scleractinian coral communities of Tiahura Reef, Moorea Island, French Polynesia. Proc 5th Int Coral Reef Congr 6:279–284Google Scholar
  10. Branham JM, Reed SA, Bailey JH (1971) Coral-eating sea stars Acanthaster planci in Hawaii. Science 172:1155–1157PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown BE, Dunne RP, Scoffin TP, Le Tissier MDA (1994) Solar damage in intertidal corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 105:219–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruno JF, Selig ER, Casey KS, Page CA, Willis BL, Harvell CD, Sweatman H, Melendy AM (2007) Thermal stress and coral cover as drivers of coral disease outbreaks. PLoS Biology 5:e124PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chesher RH (1969) Destruction of Pacific corals by the sea star Acanthaster planci. Science 18:280–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coker DJ, Pratchett MS, Munday PL (2009) Coral bleaching and habitat degradation increase susceptibility to predation for coral-dwelling fishes. Behav Ecol 20:1204–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Colgan MW (1987) Coral reef recovery on Guam (Micronesia) after catastrophic predation by Acanthaster planci. Ecology 68:1592–1605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De’ath G, Moran PJ (1998) Factors affecting the behaviour of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci L.) on the Great Barrier Reef: 2: Feeding preferences. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 220:107–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Donner SD, Skirving WJ, Little CM, Oppenheimer M, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2005) Global assessment of coral bleaching and required rates of adaptation under climate change. Global Change Biol 11:2251–2265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gardner TA, Côté IM, Gill JA, Grant A, Watkinson AR (2003) Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean corals. Science 301:958–960PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gleason DF, Wellington GM (1993) Ultraviolet radiation and coral bleaching. Nature 365:836–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glynn PW (1987) Some ecological consequences of coral-crustacean guard mutualisms in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Symbiosis 4:301–324Google Scholar
  21. Glynn PW, Krupp DA (1986) Feeding biology of a Hawaiian sea star corallivore, Culcita novaeguineae Muller & Troschel. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 96:75–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NVC, Bijoux JP, Robinson J (2006) Dynamic fragility of oceanic coral reef ecosystems. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 103:8425–8429PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham NAJ, McClanahan TR, MacNeil MA, Wilson SK, Polunin NVC, Jennings S, Chabanet P, Clark S, Spalding MD, Letourneur Y, Bigot L, Galzin R, Öhman MC, Garpe KC, Edwards AJ, Sheppard CRC (2008) Climate warming, marine protected areas and the ocean scale integrity of coral reef ecosystems. PLoS ONE 3:e3039PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Highsmith RC (1982) Reproduction by fragmentation in corals. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 7:207–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoegh-Guldberg O (1999) Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Mar Freshw Res 50:839–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, Folke C, Grosberg R, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Jackson JBC, Kleypas J, Lough JM, Marshall P, Nystrom M, Palumbi SR, Pandolfi JM, Rosen B, Roughgarden J (2003) Climate change, human impacts and the resilience of coral reefs. Science 301:929–933PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jackson JBC, Hughes TP (1985) Adaptive strategies of coral-reef invertebrates. Am Sci 73:265–270Google Scholar
  28. Jackson JBC, Kirby MX, Berger WH, Bjorndal KA, Botsford LW, Bourque BJ, Bradbury R, Cooke R, Erlandson J, Estes JA, Hughes TP, Kidwell S, Lange CB, Lenihan HS, Pandolfi JM, Peterson CH, Steneck RS, Tegner MJ, Warner R (2001) Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293:629–638PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Karlson RH, Hurd LE (1993) Disturbance, coral reef communities, and changing ecological paradigms. Coral Reefs 12:117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kayanne H, Harii S, Ide Y, Akimoto F (2002) Recovery of coral populations after the 1998 bleaching on Shiraho Reef, in the southern Ryukyus, NW Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 239:93–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Keesing JK (1992) Influence of persistent sub-infestation density Acanthaster planci (L.) and high density Echinometra mathaei (de Blainville) populations on coral reef community structure in Okinawa, Japan. Proc 7th Int Coral Reef Symp 2:769–779Google Scholar
  32. Knowlton N (1992) Thresholds and multiple stable states in coral reef community dynamics. Am Zool 32:674–682Google Scholar
  33. Knowlton N (2001) The future of coral reefs. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:5419–5425PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Loya Y, Sakai K, Yamazato K, Nakano Y, Sambali H, van Woesik R (2001) Coral bleaching: the winners and the loser. Ecol Lett 4:122–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Madin JS, Connolly SR (2006) Ecological consequences of major hydrological disturbances on coral reefs. Nature 444:477–480PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marshall PA, Baird AH (2000) Bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef: differential susceptibilities among taxa. Coral Reefs 19:155–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McClanahan TR, Ateweberhan M, Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Ruiz Sebastián C, Guillaume MMM, Bruggemann JH (2007) Western Indian Ocean coral communities: bleaching responses and susceptibility to extinction. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 337:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moran PJ (1986) The Acanthaster phenomenon. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 24:379–480Google Scholar
  39. Moran PJ, De’ath G (1992) Estimates of the abundance of the crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci in outbreaking and non-outbreaking populations on reefs within the Great Barrier Reef. Mar Biol 11:509–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nyström M, Graham N, Lokrantz J, Norström A (2008) Capturing the cornerstones of coral reef resilience: linking theory to practice. Coral Reefs 27:795–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pearson RG, Endean R (1969) A preliminary study of the coral predator Acanthaster planci (L.) (Asteroidea) on the GBR. Fish Notes 3:27–55Google Scholar
  42. Penin L, Adjeroud M, Schrimm M, Lenihan HS (2007) High spatial variability in coral bleaching around Moorea (French Polynesia): patterns across locations and water depths. Comptes Rendus Biol 330:171–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Penin L, Michonneau F, Baird AH, Connolly SR, Pratchett MS, Kayal M, Adjeroud M (2010) Early stage mortality and the structure of coral assemblages. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 408:55–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pratchett MS (2001) Influence of coral symbionts on feeding preferences of crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci in the western Pacific. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 214:111–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pratchett MS (2005) Dynamics of an outbreak population of Acanthaster planci at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef (1995–1999). Coral Reefs 24:453–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pratchett MS (2007) Feeding preferences of Acanthaster planci (L.) under controlled conditions of food availability. Pac Sci 61:113–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pratchett MS (2010) Changes in coral assemblages during an outbreak of Acanthaster planci at Lizard Island, northern Great Barrier Reef (1995–1999). Coral Reefs. doi:10.1007/s00338-010-0602-9
  48. Pratchett MS, Munday PL, Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Cinner JE, Bellwood DR, Jones GP, Polunin NVC, McClanahan TR (2008) Effects of climate-induced coral bleaching on coral-reef fishes: ecological and economic consequences. Oceanogr Mar Biol 46:251–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pratchett MS, Baird AH, McCowan DM, Coker DJ, Cole AJ, Wilson SK (2009a) Protracted declines in coral cover and fish abundance following climate-induced coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Proc 11th Int Coral Reef Symp 1:1042–1046Google Scholar
  50. Pratchett MS, Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Munday PL, Jones GP, Polunin NVC (2009b) Coral bleaching and consequences for motile reef organisms: Past, present and uncertain future effects. In: van Oppen M, Lough J (eds) Coral bleaching: patterns and processes, causes and consequences. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 139–158Google Scholar
  51. Quinn NJ, Kojis BL (2003) The dynamics of coral reef community structure and recruitment patterns around Rota, Saipan, and Tinian, western Pacific. Bull Mar Sci 72:979–996Google Scholar
  52. Riegl BM, Purkis SJ (2009) Model of coral population response to accelerated bleaching and mass mortality in a changing climate. Ecol Model 220:192–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rylaarsdam KW (1983) Life histories and abundance patterns of colonial corals on Jamaican reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 13:249–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sano M, Shimizu M, Nose Y (1987) Long-term effects of destruction of hermatypic corals by Acanthaster planci infestation on reef fish communities at Iriomote Island, Japan. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 37:191–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sheppard CRC (2003) Predicted recurrences of mass coral mortality in the Indian Ocean. Nature 425:294–297PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sheppard CRC, Spalding M, Bradshaw C, Wilson S (2002) Erosion vs. Recovery of Coral Reefs after 1998 El Niño: Chagos Reefs, Indian Ocean. Ambio 31:40–48PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Sheppard CRC, Al-Husiani M, Al-Jamali F, Al-Yamani F, Baldwin R, Bishop J, Benzoni F, Dutrieux E, Dulvy NK, Durvaula SRV, Joanes DA, Loughland R, Medio D, Nithyanandan M, Pilling GM, Polikarpov I, Price ARG, Purkis S, Riegl B, Saburova M, Namin KS, Taylor O, Wilson S, Zainal K (2010) The Gulf: a young sea in decline. Mar Pollut Bull 60:13–38PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1987) Introduction to biostatistics. WH Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Pratchett MS, Jones GP, Polunin NVC (2006) Multiple disturbances and the global degradation of coral reefs: are reef fishes at risk or resilient? Global Change Biol 12:2220–2234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Worm B, Barbier EB, Beaumont N, Duffy JE, Folke C, Halpern BS, Jackson JC, Lotze HK, Micheli F, Palumbi SR, Sala E, Selkoe KA, Stachowicz JJ, Watson R (2006) Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science 314:787–790PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Pratchett
    • 1
  • M. Trapon
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. L. Berumen
    • 1
    • 3
  • K. Chong-Seng
    • 1
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.King Abdullah University of Science and TechnologyThuwalKingdom of Saudi Arabia

Personalised recommendations