The ecological processes that maintain reef function and support thriving reef communities play an important role in maintaining resilience to major disturbances such as coral bleaching. Complex food-web interactions (e.g., herbivory, trophic cascades) reproductive cycles, population connectivity, and coral and fish recruitment are among the ecological processes that scientists have recently been studying in a reef resilience context.
Many questions remain about how, when and where these factors are important. But scientific evidence demonstrates the consistent importance of the presence of top predators and large herbivores as well as the importance of coral and fish recruitment rates and patterns for reef resilience.
Trophic Cascades (0:28)
Enric Sala discusses potential for trophic cascades
This section explores two ecological processes, herbivory and recruitment, that serve as resilience ‘bottlenecks’ in many reef systems and thus should be a focus in reef managers' activities. Maintenance of these ecological processes is a major challenge for managers. Better understanding key ecological components of a healthy system can help managers develop better long-term conservation strategies.
Anticipating Ecological Surprises: Managing Reef Resilience by Terry Hughes