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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 540:73-85 (2015)  -  DOI:

Impact of two sequential super typhoons on coral reef communities in Palau

Marine Gouezo1,*, Yimnang Golbuu1, Robert van Woesik2, Lincoln Rehm1, Shirley Koshiba1, Christopher Doropoulos1,3,4

1Palau International Coral Reef Center, 1 M-Dock Road, PO Box 7086, Koror, Republic of Palau 96940
2Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, Florida 32901-6975, USA
3Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
4CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Typhoons generally develop in the warm tropics, but rarely damage coral reefs between the latitudes 10°N and 10°S because they intensify at higher latitudes. However, climate change is forcing anomalous weather patterns, and is causing typhoons to take less predictable trajectories. For the first time in 70 yr, in December 2012, a super typhoon passed near the island of Palau, located at 7°N in the western tropical Pacific Ocean. A year later, another super typhoon passed over the northern reefs of Palau. This study characterized the impacts of both typhoons on coral and fish assemblages in 3 habitats (i.e. outer reefs, patch reefs, and inner reefs) and at 2 depths (i.e. 3 and 10 m). Loss of coral cover was highest on the shallow, eastern slopes (~60% coral cover). Juvenile coral densities decreased along the western reef slope and on the inner reefs, where overall coral cover scarcely decreased. These results suggested a potential stock-recruitment relationship with corals on the damaged eastern reefs. Early successional corals, particularly pocilloporids, recruited 6 mo after the second typhoon. Fish communities were generally unaltered by the first typhoon, except small parrotfishes, which doubled in density along the eastern reef-slope and increased on the inner reefs following the second typhoon. In combination, these findings demonstrate high spatial variability in coral loss, overall decreases in juvenile corals, and increases in herbivorous fishes on a tropical reef system that has rarely experienced large typhoon waves.

KEY WORDS: Typhoon · Corals · Fishes · Habitat · Climate · Recruitment · Resilience

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Cite this article as: Gouezo M, Golbuu Y, van Woesik R, Rehm L, Koshiba S, Doropoulos C (2015) Impact of two sequential super typhoons on coral reef communities in Palau. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 540:73-85.

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