Doom and boom on a resilient reef: Climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery

Diaz-Pulido, Guillermo, McCook, Laurence J., Dove, Sophie, Berkelmans, Ray, Roff, George, Kline, David I., Weeks, Scarla, Evans, Richard D., Williamson, David H. and Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove (2009) Doom and boom on a resilient reef: Climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery. PLoS One, 4 4: e5239.1-e5239.9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005239

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
Title Doom and boom on a resilient reef: Climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2009-04
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0005239
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 4
Issue 4
Start page e5239.1
End page e5239.9
Total pages 9
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2010
Language eng
Formatted 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 warming-induced 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.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article # e5239

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2010 Higher Education Research Data Collection
Centre for Marine Studies Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 107 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 111 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Sun, 17 Jan 2010, 00:00:53 EST