Recent disturbances augment community shifts in coral assemblages in Moorea, French Polynesia

Handle URI:
http://hdl.handle.net/10754/561626
Title:
Recent disturbances augment community shifts in coral assemblages in Moorea, French Polynesia
Authors:
Pratchett, Morgan S.; Trapon, Melanie L.; Berumen, Michael L. ( 0000-0003-2463-2742 ) ; Chong-Seng, Karen M.
Abstract:
Coral reefs are often subject to disturbances that can cause enduring changes in community structure and abundance of coral reef organisms. In Moorea, French Polynesia, frequent disturbances between 1979 and 2003 caused marked shifts in taxonomic composition of coral assemblages. This study explores recent changes in live cover and taxonomic structure of coral communities on the north coast of Moorea, French Polynesia, to assess whether coral assemblages are recovering (returning to a previous Acropora-dominated state) or continuing to move towards an alternative community structure. Coral cover declined by 29.7% between July 2003 and March 2009, mostly due to loss of Acropora and Montipora spp. Coral mortality varied among habitats, with highest levels of coral loss on the outer reef slope (7-20 m depth). In contrast, there was limited change in coral cover within the lagoon, and coral cover actually increased on the reef crest. Observed changes in coral cover and composition correspond closely with the known feeding preferences and observed spatial patterns of Acanthaster planci L., though observed coral loss also coincided with at least one episode of coral bleaching, as well as persistent populations of the corallivorous starfish Culcita novaeguineae Muller & Troschel. While climate change poses an important and significant threat to the future structure and dynamics coral reef communities, outbreaks of A. planci remain a significant cause of coral loss in Moorea. More importantly, these recent disturbances have followed long-term shifts in the structure of coral assemblages, and the relative abundance of both Pocillopora and Porites continue to increase due to disproportionate losses of Acropora and Montipora. Moreover, Pocillopora and Porites dominate assemblages of juvenile corals, suggesting that there is limited potential for a return to an Acropora-dominated state, last recorded in 1979. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.
KAUST Department:
Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division; Marine Science Program; Red Sea Research Center (RSRC); Reef Ecology Lab
Publisher:
Springer Verlag
Journal:
Coral Reefs
Issue Date:
19-Sep-2010
DOI:
10.1007/s00338-010-0678-2
Type:
Article
ISSN:
07224028
Sponsors:
This study was authorised by the French Polynesia provincial government and funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence of Coral Reef Studies. Discussions with M. Adjeroud greatly improved understanding of this study system. The authors are indebted to staff at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Biological Research Station in Moorea for extensive and ongoing logistical support.
Appears in Collections:
Articles; Red Sea Research Center (RSRC); Marine Science Program; Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorPratchett, Morgan S.en
dc.contributor.authorTrapon, Melanie L.en
dc.contributor.authorBerumen, Michael L.en
dc.contributor.authorChong-Seng, Karen M.en
dc.date.accessioned2015-08-03T09:00:40Zen
dc.date.available2015-08-03T09:00:40Zen
dc.date.issued2010-09-19en
dc.identifier.issn07224028en
dc.identifier.doi10.1007/s00338-010-0678-2en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10754/561626en
dc.description.abstractCoral reefs are often subject to disturbances that can cause enduring changes in community structure and abundance of coral reef organisms. In Moorea, French Polynesia, frequent disturbances between 1979 and 2003 caused marked shifts in taxonomic composition of coral assemblages. This study explores recent changes in live cover and taxonomic structure of coral communities on the north coast of Moorea, French Polynesia, to assess whether coral assemblages are recovering (returning to a previous Acropora-dominated state) or continuing to move towards an alternative community structure. Coral cover declined by 29.7% between July 2003 and March 2009, mostly due to loss of Acropora and Montipora spp. Coral mortality varied among habitats, with highest levels of coral loss on the outer reef slope (7-20 m depth). In contrast, there was limited change in coral cover within the lagoon, and coral cover actually increased on the reef crest. Observed changes in coral cover and composition correspond closely with the known feeding preferences and observed spatial patterns of Acanthaster planci L., though observed coral loss also coincided with at least one episode of coral bleaching, as well as persistent populations of the corallivorous starfish Culcita novaeguineae Muller & Troschel. While climate change poses an important and significant threat to the future structure and dynamics coral reef communities, outbreaks of A. planci remain a significant cause of coral loss in Moorea. More importantly, these recent disturbances have followed long-term shifts in the structure of coral assemblages, and the relative abundance of both Pocillopora and Porites continue to increase due to disproportionate losses of Acropora and Montipora. Moreover, Pocillopora and Porites dominate assemblages of juvenile corals, suggesting that there is limited potential for a return to an Acropora-dominated state, last recorded in 1979. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.en
dc.description.sponsorshipThis study was authorised by the French Polynesia provincial government and funded by the ARC Centre of Excellence of Coral Reef Studies. Discussions with M. Adjeroud greatly improved understanding of this study system. The authors are indebted to staff at the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Biological Research Station in Moorea for extensive and ongoing logistical support.en
dc.publisherSpringer Verlagen
dc.subjectAcanthaster plancien
dc.subjectBleachingen
dc.subjectCoral reefsen
dc.subjectDisturbanceen
dc.subjectPacificen
dc.subjectResilienceen
dc.titleRecent disturbances augment community shifts in coral assemblages in Moorea, French Polynesiaen
dc.typeArticleen
dc.contributor.departmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Divisionen
dc.contributor.departmentMarine Science Programen
dc.contributor.departmentRed Sea Research Center (RSRC)en
dc.contributor.departmentReef Ecology Laben
dc.identifier.journalCoral Reefsen
dc.contributor.institutionARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4814, Australiaen
dc.contributor.institutionSchool of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4814, Australiaen
kaust.authorBerumen, Michael L.en
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