Multiple stressors on coral reefs: A long-term perspective

Hughes, T. P., J. H. Connell

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(3_part_2), 1999, 932-940 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.3_part_2.0932

ABSTRACT: Coral reefs are subject to a high frequency of recurrent biological and physical disturbances. The temporal and spatial scales of these are often large and difficult to study, so that most of our knowledge of disturbances on coral reefs comes from investigations conducted at one or a few sites, over short periods of time. We argue that studying single events in isolation can be misleading and that a longer term approach is necessary for understanding the responses of coral reef assemblages to multiple stressors. We present first a brief review of the impacts of physical disturbance (e.g., cyclones, hurricanes) on the community dynamics of coral reefs, with special attention to the effects of recurrent events. We then examine two unusually detailed, long-term data sets from Heron Island, Australia, and Jamaica which demonstrate some of the complexities of multiple stressors (broadly defined as natural or man-made disturbances).

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