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MCR

Managing For Resilient Coral Reefs

By understanding how herbivores respond to disturbances that kill coral over large areas, MCR scientists have discovered critical keys to the rapid return to high coral cover. These findings highlight the crucial need for ecosystem-based management strategies that include protection of vital nursery habitat of herbivorous fishes.

Adjeroud, M., F. Michonneau, P.J. Edmunds, Y. Chancerelle, T. Lison de Loma, L. Penin, L. Thibaut, J. Vidal-Dupiol, B. Salvat and R. Galzin. 2009. Recurrent disturbances, recovery trajectories, and resilience of coral assemblages on a South Central Pacific reef. Coral Reefs 28:775-780.
Adam, T.C., R.J. Schmitt, S.J. Holbrook, A.J. Brooks, P.J. Edmunds, R.C. Carpenter, G. Bernardi. Herbivory, connectivity and ecosystem resilience: response of a coral reef to a large-scale perturbation. In review.
Dr. Andrew J. Brooks
The offshore fore reef on the north shore of Moorea a year prior to the start of a large perturbation (an outbreak of crown-of-thorns seastars, was followed immediately by Cyclone Oli) that killed almost all of the coral on the fore reef around the island. The live coral shown in this photograph covers about half of the bottom. Time series data for several previous disturbance events on Moorea indicate that coral on the fore reef returned to its pre-disturbance levels within about a decade and that macroalgae were not able to overgrow the reef following these sudden losses of coral. MCR investigators found that the increased benthic production following the widespread loss of coral fueled a rapid increase in biomass of herbivorous fishes, primarily parrotfishes, that kept macroalgae in check.
Russell J. Schmitt
Temporal trends in the cover of live coral (blue diamonds) and macroalgae (green squares) on the ocean floor, as well as biomass of herbivorous fishes that consume algae (red dots), on two major habitats of Moorea: the offshore fore reef (panel a) and the nearshore fringing reef (panel b) just prior to and following perturbations that began in 2007. Shown are the mean ± 95% confidence limits calculated from time series data collected at six locations distributed around the island. The decline in coral on the fore reef was caused by a brief population outbreak of the predatory crown-of-thorns seastar that began in 2007 and ended in 2010; Moorea also was hit by high waves from Cyclone Oli in February 2010. Both of these perturbations harmed coral on the fore reef (panel a), but had little effect on corals in the lagoon (panel b), some of which serve as the nursery habitat for young parrotfishes. Parrotfishes move to the fore reef as they grow, where they keep the growth of algae in check.
modified from Adam et al. in review

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