Roff, G, Bejarano, Sonia ORCID:, Bozec, YM, Nugues, M, Steneck, RS and Mumby, PJ (2014) Porites and the Phoenix effect: unprecedented recovery after a mass coral bleaching event at Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia. Marine Biology, 161 (6). pp. 1385-1393. DOI

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The 1997/1998 El Niño Southern Oscillation
(ENSO) was the most severe coral bleaching event in recent
history, resulting in the loss of 16 % of the world’s coral
reefs. Mortality was particularly severe in French Polynesia,
where unprecedented mortality of massive Porites was
observed in lagoonal sites of Rangiroa Atoll. To assess the
recovery of massive Porites 15 years later, we resurveyed
the size structure and extent of partial mortality of massive
Porites at Tivaru (Rangiroa). Surveys revealed an abundance
of massive Porites colonies rising from the shallow
lagoonal floor. Colony width averaged 2.65 m, reaching
a maximum of 7.1 m (estimated age of ~391 ± 107 years
old). The relative cover of recently dead skeleton within
quadrats declined from 42.8 % in 1998 to zero in 2013,
yet the relative cover of old dead skeleton increased only
marginally from 22.1 % in 1998 to 26.1 % in 2013. At a
colony level, the proportion of Porites dominated by living
tissue increased from 34.9 % in 1998 to 73.9 % in 2013,
indicating rapid recovery of recent dead skeleton to living tissue rather than transitioning to old dead skeleton. Such
rapid post-bleaching recovery is unprecedented in massive
Porites and resulted from remarkable self-regeneration
termed the ‘Phoenix effect’, whereby remnant cryptic
patches of tissue that survived the 1997/1998 ENSO event
regenerated and rapidly overgrew adjacent dead skeleton.
Contrary to our earlier predictions, not only are large massive
Porites relatively resistant to stress, they appear to
have a remarkable capacity for recovery even after severe
partial mortality.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: UNSPECIFIED
Research affiliation: Ecology > Reef Systems
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
ISSN: 0025-3162
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2020 15:25
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2020 12:58

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