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Local variability but landscape stability in coral reef communities following repeated hurricane impacts

September 12, 2000

Coral reef community structure has remained remarkably stable over a 10 yr period within a small protected marine area despite repeated hurricane impacts. Local community dynamics have been highly variable, however. Sites that were destroyed by disease in the 1970s are showing little or no recovery, while sites less than a kilometre away that were devastated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 are recovering well. Strong coral recruitment has occurred in shallow, exposed areas that showed the greatest hurricane impacts, and these areas are now more species rich than in 1988, although coral cover has not reached pre-hurricane levels. Coral colony survivorship has been high throughout most of the study area. Partial mortality rates were elevated for several years following Hurricane Hugo, but significant whole coral-head mortality only occurred during periods with hurricane impacts and only at the most exposed sites. Overall, the coral community has proved resilient to closely repeated major hurricane impacts. From a single case study we cannot attribute this resilience to the relatively low level of human impacts, but grazing fish populations have apparently remained high enough to keep macroalgae in check despite the mass mortality of the herbivore Diadema antillarum in the 1980s.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2000
Title Local variability but landscape stability in coral reef communities following repeated hurricane impacts
DOI 10.3354/meps204093
Authors John C. Bythell, Zandy M Hillis-Star, Caroline S. Rogers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Ecology Progress Series
Index ID 70124925
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program