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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 604:263-268 (2018)  -  DOI:

Cumulative effects of cyclones and bleaching on coral cover and species richness at Lizard Island

Joshua S. Madin1,2,*, Andrew H. Baird3, Tom C. L. Bridge3,4, Sean R. Connolly3, Kyle J. A. Zawada2,5, Maria Dornelas5

1Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i at Ma-%%KERN_ERR%%noa, Kaneohe, Hawai‘i 96744, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
3Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
4Biodiversity and Geosciences Program, Museum of Tropical Queensland, Queensland Museum Network, Townsville, QLD 4810, Australia
5Centre for Biological Diversity, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9TH, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Coral reefs are being subjected to an increase in the frequency and intensity of disturbance, such as bleaching and cyclones, and it is important to document the effects of such disturbance on reef coral assemblages. Between March 2014 and May 2017, the reefs of Lizard Island in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef were affected by 4 consecutive disturbances: severe tropical cyclones Ita and Nathan in 2014 and 2015, and mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. Loss of coral cover following the cyclones was patchy and dependent on the direction of the waves generated. In contrast, loss of cover following bleaching was much more uniform. Overall, coral cover declined 5-fold from 36% pre-cyclone Ita to 7% post-bleaching in 2017, while mean species richness dropped from 10 to 4 species per transect. The spatial scale and magnitude of the loss of coral cover in the region suggests that it will be many years before these reefs recover.

KEY WORDS: Community ecology · Coral reefs · Climate change · Disturbance · Diversity · Great Barrier Reef

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Cite this article as: Madin JS, Baird AH, Bridge TCL, Connolly SR, Zawada KJA, Dornelas M (2018) Cumulative effects of cyclones and bleaching on coral cover and species richness at Lizard Island. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 604:263-268.

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