Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery

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Title Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery
Author Diaz-Pulido, Guillermo; McCook, Laurence J.; Dove, Sophie; Berkelmans, Ray; Roff, George; Kline, David I.; Weeks, Scarla; Evans, Richard D.; Williamson, David H.; Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove
Journal Name PLoS One
Year Published 2009
Place of publication United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Abstract Background: Coral reefs around the world are experiencing large-scale degradation, largely due to global climate change, overfishing, diseases and eutrophication. Climate change models suggest increasing frequency and severity of warminginduced coral bleaching events, with consequent increases in coral mortality and algal overgrowth. Critically, the recovery of damaged reefs will depend on the reversibility of seaweed blooms, generally considered to depend on grazing of the seaweed, and replenishment of corals by larvae that successfully recruit to damaged reefs. These processes usually take years to decades to bring a reef back to coral dominance. Methodology/Principal Findings: In 2006, mass bleaching of corals on inshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef caused high coral mortality. Here we show that this coral mortality was followed by an unprecedented bloom of a single species of unpalatable seaweed (Lobophora variegata), colonizing dead coral skeletons, but that corals on these reefs recovered dramatically, in less than a year. Unexpectedly, this rapid reversal did not involve reestablishment of corals by recruitment of coral larvae, as often assumed, but depended on several ecological mechanisms previously underestimated. Conclusions/Significance: These mechanisms of ecological recovery included rapid regeneration rates of remnant coral tissue, very high competitive ability of the corals allowing them to out-compete the seaweed, a natural seasonal decline in the particular species of dominant seaweed, and an effective marine protected area system. Our study provides a key example of the doom and boom of a highly resilient reef, and new insights into the variability and mechanisms of reef resilience under rapid climate change.
Peer Reviewed Yes
Published Yes
Alternative URI http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0005239
Copyright Statement Copyright 2009 Diaz-Pulido et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CCAL. (http://www.plos.org/journals/license.html)
Volume 4
Issue Number 4
Page from e5239-1
Page to e5239-9
ISSN 1932-6203
Date Accessioned 2010-08-04
Date Available 2010-08-13T07:24:07Z
Language en_AU
Research Centre Australian Rivers Institute
Faculty Faculty of Science, Environment, Engineering and Technology
Subject Ecological Impacts of Climate Change; Ecological Physiology
URI http://hdl.handle.net/10072/33434
Publication Type Journal Articles (Refereed Article)
Publication Type Code c1x

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