Exposure, vulnerability, and resiliency of French Polynesian coral reefs to environmental disturbances

Abstract : preserving coral reef resilience is a major challenge in the Anthropocene, yet recent studies demonstrate failures of reef recovery from disturbance, globally. the wide and vigorous outer-reef system of French polynesia presents a rare opportunity to assess ecosystem resilience to disturbances at a large-scale equivalent to the size of europe. In this purpose, we analysed long-term data on coral community dynamics and combine the mixed-effects regression framework with a set of functional response models to evaluate coral recovery trajectories. Analyses of 14 years data across 17 reefs allowed estimating impacts of a cyclone, bleaching event and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak, which generated divergence and asynchrony in coral community trajectory. We evaluated reef resilience by quantifying levels of exposure, degrees of vulnerability, and descriptors of recovery of coral communities in the face of disturbances. our results show an outstanding rate of coral recovery, with a systematic return to the pre-disturbance state within only 5 to 10 years. Differences in the impacts of disturbances among reefs and in the levels of vulnerability of coral taxa to these events resulted in diverse recovery patterns. the consistent recovery of coral communities, and convergence toward pre- disturbance community structures, reveals that the processes that regulate ecosystem recovery still prevail in French polynesia.
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Julie Vercelloni, Mohsen Kayal, Yannick Chancerelle, Serge Planes. Exposure, vulnerability, and resiliency of French Polynesian coral reefs to environmental disturbances. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2019, 9 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41598-018-38228-5⟩. ⟨hal-02052409⟩

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