Effects of tropical storms on the demography of reef corals

Baird, Andrew H., Álvarez-Noriega, Mariana, Cumbo, Vivian R., Connolly, Sean R., Dornelas, Maria, and Madin, Joshua S. (2018) Effects of tropical storms on the demography of reef corals. Marine Ecology - Progress Series, 606. pp. 29-38.

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Disturbances, such as cyclones, have a major effect on the structure and dynamics of coral reef assemblages. However, the effect of cyclones on demographic traits, such as fecundity, has rarely been quantified, and direct estimates of mortality at the species level are rare. Here, we document the effect of Severe Tropical Cyclone Nathan on the demography of corals on the reef crest at Trimodal Reef in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Mortality rates based on tagged colonies were very high, ranging from 85.2% in Goniastrea retiformis to 100% in 6 Acropora species, 3 to 40 times higher than averages rates in the 5 yr preceding Cyclone Nathan. Fecundity was lower in 3 out of the 4 species examined following the cyclone, and egg carbon content was reduced by 58-63% in the 2 species examined. These results suggest that energy normally invested in reproduction was diverted to other processes such as injury repair and demonstrate that cyclones have important sub-lethal effects in addition to high rates of whole colony mortality. Coral cover was reduced from 34.9 ± 3.9% (mean ± SE) to 3.4 ± 1.5%, with reductions in the cover of all taxa except those with predominantly massive morphologies such as the Poritidae. A projected increase in the frequency of tropical storms as a result of global warming, combined with an increase in the frequency and scale of coral bleaching, suggest a fundamental shift in mortality regimes on reefs which has the potential to threaten their long-term persistence.

Item ID: 56482
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1616-1599
Keywords: coral reefs, climate change, demography, disturbance, recovery
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Inter-Research.
Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies), Templeton Foundation (TF), Scottish Funding Council (SFC), European Research Council (ERC)
Projects and Grants: ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies CE140100020, Future Fellowship, Australian Professorial Fellowship, TF grant no. 60501, SFC MASTS-HR09011, ERC grant BioTIME
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 07:30
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 60%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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