Coral recovery may not herald the return of fishes on damaged coral reefs

Citation data:

Oecologia, ISSN: 0029-8549, Vol: 170, Issue: 2, Page: 567-73

Publication Year:
2012
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Repository URL:
https://research-repository.uwa.edu.au/en/publications/78d46615-5d6f-4b5a-8d62-dbde28a31db6; http://hdl.handle.net/10754/562134
PMID:
22447198
DOI:
10.1007/s00442-012-2306-z
Author(s):
Bellwood, David R.; Baird, Andrew Hamilton; Depczynski, Martial R.; González-Cabello, Alonso; Hoey, Andrew; Lefévre, Carine D.; Tanner, Jennifer K.
Publisher(s):
Springer Nature; Springer Verlag
Tags:
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Bleaching; Coral reefs; Habitat loss; Phase shifts; Resilience
article description
The dynamic nature of coral reefs offers a rare opportunity to examine the response of ecosystems to disruption due to climate change. In 1998, the Great Barrier Reef experienced widespread coral bleaching and mortality. As a result, cryptobenthic fish assemblages underwent a dramatic phase-shift. Thirteen years, and up to 96 fish generations later, the cryptobenthic fish assemblage has not returned to its pre-bleach configuration. This is despite coral abundances returning to, or exceeding, pre-bleach values. The post-bleach fish assemblage exhibits no evidence of recovery. If these short-lived fish species are a model for their longer-lived counterparts, they suggest that (1) the full effects of the 1998 bleaching event on long-lived fish populations have yet to be seen, (2) it may take decades, or more, before recovery or regeneration of these long-lived species will begin, and (3) fish assemblages may not recover to their previous composition despite the return of corals.