A new technical report from Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) has found that Palau’s western outer reefs were mostly unscathed by Typhoon Surigae.

One of the strongest typhoons in recent memory, Typhoon Surigae caused almost $5 million in damages when it passed Palau’s western coast in April 2021. However, although researchers feared the storm would severely damage the western outer reefs, the Center’s new study confirms that Typhoon Surigae did not significantly decrease the reefs’ coral cover.

“We observed an increase in turf algae in 2021 which is likely due to algae colonizing the substrate after the typhoon” said Christina Muller Karanassos, the study’s lead author. “But other than that we didn’t record any major damage.”

Of all the western reef sites surveyed only Siaes, located in Koror state, showed a significant impact, experiencing a decrease in coral and increase in turf algae following the typhoon. This decrease in coral cover was likely driven by the loss of fragile branching corals species such as Seriatopora spp., Acropora spp.and Porites spp.

“With climate change increasing the frequency and severity of typhoons, it’s important to be able to accurately monitor their impact on coral reefs” continued Muller Karanassos. “It’s also critical to maintain our herbivorous fish populations to control turf algae following these disturbances.”

PICRC completed this study as part of its ongoing coral reef monitoring program. The full study is available online at picrc.org/work/technical lreports or upon request at outreach.picrc@gmail.com or 488-6950.

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