MODELS OF CORAL DEMOGRAPHY DURING REEF RECOVERY PROVIDE QUANTITATIVE PROJECTIONS OF CORAL COMMUNITY TRAJECTORIES AND ESTIMATES OF REEF RESILIENCE
Coral reefs are inherently resilient to perturbations. Yet coral populations are declining in many places. The question why is this so has focused much attention on identifying underlying drivers of reef resilience. How coral communities respond to disturbance appears to depend on complex interactions of abiotic and biotic processes acting at multiple scales. Understanding these processes quantitatively requires an approach that integrates empirical individual-level demography with population simulations designed to elucidate community dynamics. We used an Integral Projection Model (IPM) framework to investigate the drivers of coral community recovery in Moorea, French Polynesia. Reefs there are recovering from disturbances that decimated coral populations, providing an excellent model system to evaluate mechanisms influencing early-stage community recovery and longer-term resilience. We quantified recruitment, growth and survival of the three dominant coral genera over multiple spatial scales during the first 5 years of reef recovery. We used estimates of coral performance to construct an IPM that predicts community trajectories based on the population dynamics of the three genera. Our results indicate that spatial variability in coral recruitment, species' life histories, density-dependent regulation and local reef environment interact at different scales to influence recovery. Our approach provides the foundation to quantitatively evaluate the degree to which coral communities are resilient, and to predict the effects of future disturbances such as mass bleaching events.
Kayal, M., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, email@example.com
Kendall, B. E., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lenihan, H. S., University of California Santa Barbara, USA, email@example.com
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