Worldwide, coral reefs are being impacted by disturbances. As global temperatures rise, bleaching events and extreme weather events are likely to increase. Through ecological monitoring researchers are able to track changes to better understand how coral reefs are impacted and how they recover from these large disturbances.
Until 2001, there had been no comprehensive coral reef monitoring on disturbance impacts, coral mortality, or recovery time for Palau’s coral reefs at an island scale. This lack of data left many questions unanswered following the 1998 bleaching event. In response to this gap in knowledge, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) established their long-term coral reef monitoring program. Information from the coral reef monitoring programs can be used to tell us the status of Palau’s reefs and track and document changes resulting from large disturbances.
A new report by PICRC researchers presents the results of PICRCs 15-year study on Palau’s coral reefs. The results showed that most coral reef communities recovered from the 1998 coral bleaching event, but it took at least 10 years for them to fully recover. PICRC researchers discovered that in all reefs habitats the areas covered by corals gradually began to increase in 2002 and continued to recover and regain their stable structure. A notable exception is found in the eastern reefs of Palau because of the severe damage caused Typhoon Bopha and Haiyan in 2012 and 2013. The coral communities within this area were not fully recovered from the 1998 bleaching when the typhoons hit and are just now starting to recover.
This study demonstrates PICRC’s efforts to continue monitoring over the years consistently using the same methods. Thanks to this data collection, researchers are able to understand the past and current status of Palau’s coral reefs, and how disturbances have impacted them. It is extremely important to continue monitoring efforts to inform the public, stakeholders and policy makers on the impacts from large disturbances and the reality of reefs recovery time following them.
A copy of this report can be accessed through the PICRC website (picrc.org) under Research Publications and Technical Reports or from the PICRC library. Please contact Ines Kintoki at firstname.lastname@example.org for further questions or comments. [/restrict]