Suppressed recovery of functionally important branching Acropora drives coral community composition changes following mass bleaching in Indonesia

Watt-Pringle, R. and Smith, D.J. and Ambo-Rappe, R. and Lamont, T.A.C. and Jompa, J. (2022) Suppressed recovery of functionally important branching Acropora drives coral community composition changes following mass bleaching in Indonesia. Coral Reefs. ISSN 0722-4028

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Abstract

Mass coral bleaching events may have disproportionate effects on branching corals, leading to coral community restructuring, reduced biodiversity, and decreased structural complexity. This affects overall reef health and resilience. Functionally important, fast-growing branching Acropora corals were a historically dominant and vital component of Indonesian reefs throughout the twentieth century, yet the genus is also one of the most vulnerable to external stressors. This study used long-term annual reef monitoring data from Indonesia’s Wakatobi Marine National Park (WMNP) to investigate the effects of a mass bleaching event in 2010 on Acropora and other branching corals, evaluate their post-disturbance recovery trajectories, and analyse shifts in coral community composition. Post-bleaching scleractinian coral cover decreased across study sites, with losses in branching corals especially evident. Long-term branching Acropora cover decreased significantly and failed to demonstrate the significant post-disturbance recovery of other branching corals (especially Porites). In areas characterised by relatively high branching Acropora cover (> 15% mean cover) prior to bleaching, long-term coral community composition changes have trended predominately towards branching and massive Porites and branching Montipora. The novelty and key contribution of this study is that results suggest suppressed recovery of Acropora in the WMNP. Contributing factors may include the Allee effect (inhibition of reproduction at low population densities), other forms of inhibited larval recruitment, direct and indirect spatial competition, and changes in the physical reef habitat. These findings have critical implications for this functionally important taxon, future reef conservation efforts, and overall reef health and resilience in the park.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Coral Reefs
Additional Information:
The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00338-022-02275-2
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1100/1104
Subjects:
ID Code:
174364
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
11 Aug 2022 14:50
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
11 Aug 2022 14:50