Spatial assessments of coral reef communities across five reefs of the central Great Barrier Reef were conducted. Reef condition proxies included coral cover, coral composition, coral recruit density, reef structural complexity and fish assemblages. Each reef was characterized by different disturbance histories: two were undisturbed in the past 15 years and three reefs had experienced disturbance (crown-of-thorns sea star outbreaks and/or coral bleaching) 7-10 years prior to the study. Patterns of coral cover and community composition related to a range of other variables (water movement, light penetration and temperature) assessed were thought to be important for reef dynamics. Significant coral community difference in the unrecovered reefs was documented, compared to the composition and cover found on undisturbed reefs. Ecological predictors most strongly correlated to coral composition patterns included density of juvenile corals, herbivore fish biomass, fish species richness and macro-algae cover.
Author: Graham, N.A.J., K.M. Chong-Seng, C. Huchery, F.A. Januchowski-Hartley, and K.L. Nash
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PLoS ONE 9(7): e101204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101204