Decadal erosion of coral assemblages by multiple disturbances in the Palm Islands, central Great Barrier Reef

Torda, Gergely, Sambrook, Katie, Cross, Peter, Sato, Yui, Bourne, David G., Lukoschek, Vimoksalehi, Hill, Tessa, Torras Jorda, Georgina, Moya, Aurelie, and Willis, Bette L. (2018) Decadal erosion of coral assemblages by multiple disturbances in the Palm Islands, central Great Barrier Reef. Scientific Reports, 8. 11885. pp. 1-10.

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Increases in the frequency of perturbations that drive coral community structure, such as severe thermal anomalies and high intensity storms, highlight the need to understand how coral communities recover following multiple disturbances. We describe the dynamics of cover and assemblage composition of corals on exposed inshore reefs in the Palm Islands, central Great Barrier Reef, over 19 years encapsulating major disturbance events such as the severe bleaching event in 1998 and Cyclone Yasi in 2011, along with other minor storm and heat stress events. Over this time, 47.8% of hard coral cover was lost, with a concomitant shift in coral assemblage composition due to taxon-specific rates of mortality during the disturbances, and asymmetric recovery in the aftermath thereof. High recruitment rates of some broadcast-spawning corals, particularly corymbose Acropora spp., even in the absence of adult colonies, indicate that a strong external larval supply replenished the stocks. Conversely, the time required for recovery of slow-growing coral morphologies and life histories was longer than the recurrence times of major disturbances. With interludes between bleaching and cyclones predicted to decrease, the probability of another severe disturbance event before coral cover and assemblage composition approximates historical levels suggests that reefs will continue to erode.

Item ID: 57479
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-2322
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2018. Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence Program
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2019 04:16
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 100%
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