Coral Reef Disturbance and Recovery Dynamics Differ Across Gradients of Localized Stressors in the Mariana Islands

Disturbance and recovery patters of coral reefs in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were studied over a 12-year period, including Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) densities, localized stressors, and natural disturbances such as tropical storms. COTS densities caused significant coral decline, however, the ability of reefs to recover was most influenced by localized stressors, in particular, grazing urchin densities and herbivore sizes. Reefs on Saipan had the highest disturbance impacts, with smaller fish sizes, grazing urchins, and water quality, even though they had the most favorable geological features for coral growth. These reefs are also subject to reef-based tourism, which is important to CNMI’s economy and thus deserves a hard look at how to improve fish assemblages, urchin populations, and local water quality concerns.

Author: Houk, P., D. Benavente, J. Iguel, S. Johnson, and R. Okano
Year: 2014
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PLoS ONE 9(8): e105731. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105731

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