The Moorea Coral Reef LTER site encompasses the coral reef complex that surrounds the island of Moorea, French Polynesia (17°30'S, 149°50'W). Moorea is a small, triangular volcanic island 20 km west of Tahiti in the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
The coastal environments of Moorea offer an unparalleled opportunity for studies of coral reef ecosystems. An offshore barrier reef forms a system of shallow (mean depth ~ 5-7 m), narrow (~0.8-1.5 km wide) lagoons around the 60 km perimeter of Moorea. All major coral reef types (e.g., fringing reef, lagoon patch reefs, back reef, barrier reef and fore reef) are present and accessible by small boat.
Prior to 2008, the reefs were in excellent condition and had been subjected to relatively few natural disturbances during the last several decades. An outbreak of the crown of thorns seastar (Acanthaster planci) that began in 2007 and a near miss by tropical cyclone Olie in early 2010 significantly reduced the cover of live coral on the fore reef and to differing degrees around the island. This “natural experiment” provides MCR scientists with an unparalleled opportunity to study the processes that influence the recovery of coral reefs from the effects of large disturbances.