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Porites superfusa mortality and recovery from a bleaching event at Palmyra Atoll, USA.

  • Author(s): Furby, Kathryn Anne
  • Smith, Jennifer Ellen
  • Sandin, Stuart Adrian
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

The demography of a coral colony is not a binary trajectory of life and death. Based on the flexibility afforded by colonial organization, most reef-building corals employ a variety of dynamic survival strategies, including growth and shrinkage. The demographic flexibility affects coral size, shape and reproductive output, among other factors. It is thus critical to quantify the relative importance of key dynamics of recruitment, mortality, growth and shrinkage in changing the overall cover of coral on a reef.

Methods

Using fixed photographic quadrats, we tracked the patterns of change in the cover of one common central Pacific coral, Porites superfusa, before and after the 2009 ENSO event.

Results

Coral colonies suffered both whole and partial colony mortality, although larger colonies were more likely to survive. In subsequent years, recruitment of new colonies and regrowth of surviving colonies both contributed to the modest recovery of P. superfusa.

Discussion

This study is unique in its quantitative comparisons of coral recruitment versus regrowth during periods of areal expansion. Our data suggest that recovery is not limited simply to the long pathway of settlement, recruitment and early growth of new colonies but is accelerated by means of regrowth of already established colonies having suffered partial mortality.

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