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The threat to coral reefs from more intense cyclones under climate change

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dc.contributor Australian Institute Of Marine Science
dc.contributor Australian Inst Marine Sci
dc.contributor.author SWEATMAN, HUGH
dc.contributor.author CHEAL, ALISTAIR J.
dc.contributor.author MACNEIL, M. AARON
dc.contributor.author EMSLIE, MICHAEL J.
dc.date.accessioned 2017-03-21T01:05:26Z
dc.date.accessioned 2017-03-16T04:42:33Z
dc.date.accessioned 2017-03-16T04:42:33Z
dc.date.accessioned 2019-05-09T01:11:00Z
dc.date.available 2017-03-21T01:05:26Z
dc.date.available 2017-03-16T04:42:33Z
dc.date.available 2017-03-16T04:42:33Z
dc.date.available 2019-05-09T01:11:00Z
dc.date.issued 2017-04-01
dc.identifier.citation Cheal AJ, MacNeil MA, Emslie MJ, Sweatman H (2017) The threat to coral reefs from more intense cyclones under climate change. Global Change Biology 23(4): 1511-1524 en_US
dc.identifier.issn 1354-1013
dc.identifier.uri http://epubs.aims.gov.au/11068/13241
dc.description.abstract Ocean warming under climate change threatens coral reefs directly, through fatal heat stress to corals and indirectly, by boosting the energy of cyclones that cause coral destruction and loss of associated organisms. Although cyclone frequency is unlikely to rise, cyclone intensity is predicted to increase globally, causing more frequent occurrences of the most destructive cyclones with potentially severe consequences for coral reef ecosystems. While increasing heat stress is considered a pervasive risk to coral reefs, quantitative estimates of threats from cyclone intensification are lacking due to limited data on cyclone impacts to inform projections. Here, using extensive data from Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR), we show that increases in cyclone intensity predicted for this century are sufficient to greatly accelerate coral reef degradation. Coral losses on the outer GBR were small, localized and offset by gains on undisturbed reefs for more than a decade, despite numerous cyclones and periods of record heat stress, until three unusually intense cyclones over 5 years drove coral cover to record lows over > 1500 km. Ecological damage was particularly severe in the central-southern region where 68% of coral cover was destroyed over > 1000 km, forcing record declines in the species richness and abundance of associated fish communities, with many local extirpations. Four years later, recovery of average coral cover was relatively slow and there were further declines in fish species richness and abundance. Slow recovery of community diversity appears likely from such a degraded starting point. Highly unusual characteristics of two of the cyclones, aside from high intensity, inflated the extent of severe ecological damage that would more typically have occurred over 100s of km. Modelling published predictions of future cyclone activity, the likelihood of more intense cyclones within time frames of coral recovery by mid-century poses a global threat to coral reefs and dependent societies.
dc.description.sponsorship The Long-term Monitoring Program (LTMP) has been funded in part by the Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program and National Environmental Science Programme en_US
dc.description.sponsorship We thank all past and present members of the Long-term Monitoring Program (LTMP) at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) who helped to gather the data used in this study. We are grateful to the crew on various AIMS ships and separate charter vessels who helped facilitate such broadscale data collection. Special thanks to Dr Faye Christidis for constructive comments on earlier drafts. The LTMP has been funded in part by the Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program and National Environmental Science Programme.
dc.description.uri http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13593/full en_US
dc.language English
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.publisher Wiley en_US
dc.subject Degradation
dc.subject Species Richness
dc.subject Ecology
dc.subject Ecosystem Vulnerability
dc.subject Biodiversity Conservation
dc.subject Disturbance
dc.subject Cyclones
dc.subject Environmental Sciences & Ecology
dc.subject Resilience
dc.subject Tropical Cyclone
dc.subject Climate Change
dc.subject Communities
dc.subject Fish Assemblages
dc.subject Biodiversity & Conservation
dc.subject Recovery
dc.subject Coral Cover
dc.subject Ecosystems
dc.subject Coral Reefs
dc.subject Cyclone Intensity
dc.subject Phase-shifts
dc.subject Great-barrier-reef
dc.subject Reef Fish en_US
dc.subject Impacts en_US
dc.subject Environmental Sciences en_US
dc.title The threat to coral reefs from more intense cyclones under climate change
dc.type journal article en_US
dc.identifier.doi 10.1111/gcb.13593
dc.identifier.wos WOS:000396836800013


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