A variety of perturbations including cyclones, bleaching, and coral predator outbreaks can result in sudden landscape-scale loss of coral and dramatically affect community structure and function. The most commonly used metric to gauge subsequent recovery is the degree to which the reef regains coral cover. However, this metric does not reveal whether the reef community reassembles to its previous composition, or the mechanisms that influence the rate of reassembly. We explored these issues for six sites on the fore reef around Moorea, French Polynesia. Between 2008 and 2010, the reefs were impacted by an outbreak of Crown-of-Thorns Seastars and a cyclone, which together resulted in almost complete loss of coral. Five years later, the rate of re-establishment of coral cover differed greatly around the island, and contrary to expectation, coral cover is returning most rapidly at sites where the least amount of live coral remained after the disturbances. Although the sites differ in the pace of recovery, all show evidence of reassembly to their pre-disturbance structure in terms of relative abundance of coral genera and of the main functional groups of benthic space holders. The primary driver of spatial variation in rates of recovery was coral recruitment, while subsequent growth and survivorship were of lesser importance in shaping the spatial pattern. Our findings suggest that not all sites are likely to fully recover given the observed heterogeneity in rates of reassembly and the re-occurrence probability of major disturbance events to the fore reef of Moorea.


Holbrook, S. J., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, holbrook@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Edmunds, P. J., California State University Northridge, USA, peter.edmunds@csun.edu

Carpenter, R. C., California State University Northridge, USA, robert.carpenter@csun.edu

Schmitt, R. J., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, schmitt@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Brooks, A. J., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, AJBrooks@ucsb.edu

Briggs, C. J., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, cherie.briggs@lifesci.ucsb.edu

Adam, T. C., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, thomas.adam@lifesci.ucsb.edu


Oral presentation

Session #:17
Date: 06/23/2016
Time: 15:00
Location: 313 A

Presentation is given by student: No