Drivers of recovery and reassembly of coral reef communities

Gouezo, Marine, Golbuu, Yimnang, Fabricius, Katharina, Olsudong, Dawnette, Mereb, Geory, Nestor, Victor, Wolanski, Eric, Harrison, Peter, and Doropoulos, Christopher (2019) Drivers of recovery and reassembly of coral reef communities. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 286 (1897). 20182908.

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Understanding processes that drive community recovery are needed to predict ecosystem trajectories and manage for impacts under increasing global threats. Yet, the quantification of community recovery in coral reefs has been challenging owing to a paucity of long-term ecological data and high frequency of disturbances. Here we investigate community re-assembly and the bio-physical drivers that determine the capacity of coral reefs to recover following the 1998 bleaching event, using long-term monitoring data across four habitats in Palau. Our study documents that the time needed for coral reefs to recover from bleaching disturbance to coral-dominated state in disturbance-free regimes is at least 9–12 years. Importantly, we show that reefs in two habitats achieve relative stability to a climax community state within that time frame. We then investigated the direct and indirect effects of drivers on the rate of recovery of four dominant coral groups using a structural equation modelling approach. While the rates of recovery differed among coral groups, we found that larval connectivity and juvenile coral density were prominent drivers of recovery for fast growing Acropora but not for the other three groups. Competitive algae and parrotfish had negative and positive effects on coral recovery in general, whereas wave exposure had variable effects related to coral morphology. Overall, the time needed for community re-assembly is habitat specific and drivers of recovery are taxa specific, considerations that require incorporation into planning for ecosystem management under climate change.

Item ID: 57207
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2954
Keywords: bleaching, community, coral reef, disturbance, recovery, recruitment
Copyright Information: © 2019 The Author(s). Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. This article is freely available from the publisher's website.
Funders: David & Lucile Packard Foundation, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, NOAA Coastal Oceans Programs, US Department of Interior
Projects and Grants: US Department of Interior Coral Reef Initiative Grant
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2019 06:40
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3707 Hydrology > 370704 Surface water hydrology @ 50%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4408 Political science > 440805 Environmental politics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9199 Other Economic Framework > 919902 Ecological Economics @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 50%
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