Temporal clustering of tropical cyclones on the Great Barrier Reef and its ecological importance

Wolff, Nicholas H, Wong, Aaron, Vitolo, Renato, Stolberg, Kristin, Anthony, Kenneth R. N. and Mumby, Peter J. (2016) Temporal clustering of tropical cyclones on the Great Barrier Reef and its ecological importance. Coral Reefs, 35 2: 1-11. doi:10.1007/s00338-016-1400-9

Author Wolff, Nicholas H
Wong, Aaron
Vitolo, Renato
Stolberg, Kristin
Anthony, Kenneth R. N.
Mumby, Peter J.
Title Temporal clustering of tropical cyclones on the Great Barrier Reef and its ecological importance
Journal name Coral Reefs   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0722-4028
Publication date 2016-01-22
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s00338-016-1400-9
Volume 35
Issue 2
Start page 1
End page 11
Total pages 11
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher Springer Verlag
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Tropical cyclones have been a major cause of reef coral decline during recent decades, including on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). While cyclones are a natural element of the disturbance regime of coral reefs, the role of temporal clustering has previously been overlooked. Here, we examine the consequences of different types of cyclone temporal distributions (clustered, stochastic or regular) on reef ecosystems. We subdivided the GBR into 14 adjoining regions, each spanning roughly 300 km, and quantified both the rate and clustering of cyclones using dispersion statistics. To interpret the consequences of such cyclone variability for coral reef health, we used a model of observed coral population dynamics. Results showed that clustering occurs on the margins of the cyclone belt, being strongest in the southern reefs and the far northern GBR, which also has the lowest cyclone rate. In the central GBR, where rates were greatest, cyclones had a relatively regular temporal pattern. Modelled dynamics of the dominant coral genus, Acropora, suggest that the long-term average cover might be more than 13 % greater (in absolute cover units) under a clustered cyclone regime compared to stochastic or regular regimes. Thus, not only does cyclone clustering vary significantly along the GBR but such clustering is predicted to have a marked, and management-relevant, impact on the status of coral populations. Additionally, we use our regional clustering and rate results to sample from a library of over 7000 synthetic cyclone tracks for the GBR. This allowed us to provide robust reef-scale maps of annual cyclone frequency and cyclone impacts on Acropora. We conclude that assessments of coral reef vulnerability need to account for both spatial and temporal cyclone distributions.
Keyword Acropora
Temporal variability
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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