The importance of coral larval recruitment for the recovery of reefs impacted by Cyclone Yasi in the central Great Barrier Reef

Lukoschek, Vimoksalehi, Cross, Peter, Torda, Gergely, Zimmerman, Rachel, and Willis, Bette L. (2013) The importance of coral larval recruitment for the recovery of reefs impacted by Cyclone Yasi in the central Great Barrier Reef. PLoS ONE, 8 (6). pp. 1-11.

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Abstract

Cyclone Yasi, one of the most severe tropical storms on record, crossed the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in February 2011, bringing wind speeds of up to 285 km hr⁻¹ and wave heights of at least 10 m, and causing massive destruction to exposed reefs in the Palm Island Group. Following the cyclone, mean (± S.E.) hard coral cover ranged from just 2.1 (0.2) % to 5.3 (0.4) % on exposed reefs and no reproductively mature colonies of any species of Acropora remained. Although no fragments of Acropora were found at impacted exposed sites following the cyclone, small juvenile colonies of Acropora (<10 cm diameter) were present, suggesting that their small size and compact morphologies enabled them to survive the cyclone. By contrast, sheltered reefs appeared to be unaffected by the cyclone. Mean (± S.E.) hard coral cover ranged from 18.2 (2.4) % to 30.0 (1.0) % and a large proportion of colonies of Acropora were reproductively mature. Macroalgae accounted for 8 to 16% of benthic cover at exposed sites impacted by cyclone Yasi but were absent at sheltered sites. Mean (± S.E.) recruitment of acroporids to settlement tiles declined from 25.3 (4.8) recruits tile⁻¹ in the pre-cyclone spawning event (2010) to 15.4 (2.2) recruits tile⁻¹ in the first post-cyclone spawning event (2011). Yet, post-cyclone recruitment did not differ between exposed (15.2±2.1 S.E.) and sheltered sites (15.6±2.2 S.E.), despite the loss of reproductive colonies at the exposed sites, indicating larval input from external sources. Spatial variation in impacts, the survival of small colonies, and larval replenishment to impacted reefs suggest that populations of Acropora have the potential to recover from this severe disturbance, provided that the Palm Islands are not impacted by acute disturbances or suffer additional chronic stressors in the near future.

Item ID: 27819
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information:

© 2013 Lukoschek et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: CEO561435
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2013 06:37
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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