All Title Author
Keywords Abstract

PLOS ONE  2013 

Dynamic Stability of Coral Reefs on the West Australian Coast

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069863

Full-Text   Cite this paper   Add to My Lib


Monitoring changes in coral cover and composition through space and time can provide insights to reef health and assist the focus of management and conservation efforts. We used a meta-analytical approach to assess coral cover data across latitudes 10–35°S along the west Australian coast, including 25 years of data from the Ningaloo region. Current estimates of coral cover ranged between 3 and 44% in coral habitats. Coral communities in the northern regions were dominated by corals from the families Acroporidae and Poritidae, which became less common at higher latitudes. At Ningaloo Reef coral cover has remained relatively stable through time (~28%), although north-eastern and southern areas have experienced significant declines in overall cover. These declines are likely related to periodic disturbances such as cyclones and thermal anomalies, which were particularly noticeable around 1998/1999 and 2010/2011. Linear mixed effects models (LME) suggest latitude explains 10% of the deviance in coral cover through time at Ningaloo. Acroporidae has decreased in abundance relative to other common families at Ningaloo in the south, which might be related to persistence of more thermally and mechanically tolerant families. We identify regions where quantitative time-series data on coral cover and composition are lacking, particularly in north-western Australia. Standardising routine monitoring methods used by management and research agencies at these, and other locations, would allow a more robust assessment of coral condition and a better basis for conservation of coral reefs.


[1]  Bruno JF, Selig ER (2007) Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: timing, extent, and subregional comparisons. PLoS One 2: e711.
[2]  Ateweberhan M, McClanahan TR, Graham NAJ, Sheppard CRC (2011) Episodic heterogeneous decline and recovery of coral cover in the Indian Ocean. Coral Reefs: 1–14.
[3]  Osborne K, Dolman AM, Burgess SC, Johns KA (2011) Disturbance and the dynamics of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef (1995–2009). PLoS One 6: e17516.
[4]  Sweatman H, Delean S, Syms C (2011) Assessing loss of coral cover on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef over two decades, with implications for longer-term trends. Coral Reefs 30: 521–531.
[5]  Friedlander AM, DeMartini EE (2002) Contrasts in density, size, and biomass of reef fishes between the northwestern and the main Hawaiian islands: the effects of fishing down apex predators. Marine Ecology Progress Series 230: 253–264.
[6]  Aronson RB, Precht WF (2000) Herbivory and algal dynamics on the coral reef at Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Limnology and Oceanography: 251–255.
[7]  Hughes TP, Baird AH, Dinsdale EA, Moltschaniwskyj N, Pratchett MS, et al. (1999) Patterns of recruitment and abundance of corals along the Great Barrier Reef. Nature 397: 59–63.
[8]  McClanahan TR, Graham NAJ, MacNeil MA, Muthiga NA, Cinner JE, et al. (2011) Critical thresholds and tangible targets for ecosystem-based management of coral reef fisheries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: 17230–17233.
[9]  Sandin SA, Smith JE, DeMartini EE, Dinsdale EA, Donner SD, et al. (2008) Baselines and degradation of coral reefs in the northern Line Islands. PLoS One 3: e1548.
[10]  Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Fisher R, Robinson J, Nash KL, et al. (In Press) Effect of macroalgal expansion and Marine Protected Areas on coral recovery following a climatic disturbance. Conservation Biology.
[11]  Hughes TP, Graham NAJ, Jackson JBC, Mumby PJ, Steneck RS (2010) Rising to the challenge of sustaining coral reef resilience. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25: 633–642.
[12]  Knowlton N, Jackson JBC (2008) Shifting baselines, local impacts, and global change on coral reefs. PLoS Biology 6: e54.
[13]  C?té IM, Gill JA, Gardner TA, Watkinson AR (2005) Measuring coral reef decline through meta-analyses. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 360: 385–395.
[14]  Gardner TA, C?té IM, Gill JA, Grant A, Watkinson AR (2003) Long-term region-wide declines in Caribbean corals. Science 301: 958–960.
[15]  Hughes TP, Baird AH, Dinsdale EA, Harriott VJ, Moltschaniwskyj NA, et al. (2002) Detecting regional variation using meta-analysis and large-scale sampling: latitudinal patterns in recruitment. Ecology 83: 436–451.
[16]  Pandolfi JM, Bradbury RH, Sala E, Hughes TP, Bjorndal KA, et al. (2003) Global trajectories of the long-term decline of coral reef ecosystems. Science 301: 955–958.
[17]  De’Ath G, Fabricius KE, Sweatman H, Puotinen M (2012) The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 1–5.
[18]  Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, et al. (2007) Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318: 1737–1742.
[19]  Hughes TP, Baird AH, Bellwood DR, Card M, Connolly SR, et al. (2003) Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs. science 301: 929–933.
[20]  Brown BE (1997) Disturbances to reefs in recent times. Life and death of coral reefs: 354–379.Springer.
[21]  Loya Y, Sakai K, Yamazato K, Nakano Y, Sambali H, et al. (2001) Coral bleaching: the winners and the losers. Ecology Letters 4: 122–131.
[22]  Aronson RB, Precht WF (2001) White-band disease and the changing face of Caribbean coral reefs. Hydrobiologia 460: 25–38.
[23]  Berumen ML, Pratchett MS (2006) Recovery without resilience: persistent disturbance and long-term shifts in the structure of fish and coral communities at Tiahura Reef, Moorea. Coral Reefs 25: 647–653.
[24]  Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Pratchett MS, Jones GP, Polunin NVC (2006) Multiple disturbances and the global degradation of coral reefs: are reef fishes at risk or resilient? Global Change Biology 12: 2220–2234.
[25]  Pratchett MS, Munday P, Wilson SK (2008) Effects of climate-induced coral bleaching on coral-reef fishes. Ecological and economic consequences. Oceanography and Marine Biology: Annual Review 46: 251–296.
[26]  Stella JS, Pratchett MS, Hutchings PA, Jones GP (2011) Coral-associated invertebrates: diversity, ecological importance and vulnerability to disturbance. Oceanography and Marine Biology 49: 43–104.
[27]  Sheppard CRC, Davy SK, Pilling GM (2009) The biology of coral reefs: Oxford University Press.
[28]  McClanahan TR, Ateweberhan M, Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Sebastian CR, et al. (2007) Western Indian Ocean coral communities: bleaching responses and susceptibility to extinction. Marine Ecology Progress Series 337: 1–13.
[29]  Sheppard C, Al-Husiani M, Al-Jamali F, Al-Yamani F, Baldwin R, et al. (2010) The Gulf: a young sea in decline. Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 13–38.
[30]  Goreau T, McClanahan T, Hayes R, Strong A (2000) Conservation of coral reefs after the 1998 global bleaching event. Conservation Biology 14: 5–15.
[31]  McClanahan TR, Baird AH, Marshall PA, Toscano MA (2004) Comparing bleaching and mortality responses of hard corals between southern Kenya and the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48: 327–335.
[32]  Fisher R, Radford BT, Knowlton N, Brainard RE, Michaelis FB, et al. (2010) Global mismatch between research effort and conservation needs of tropical coral reefs. Conservation Letters 4: 64–72.
[33]  Selig ER, Casey KS, Bruno JF (2012) Temperature-driven coral decline: the role of marine protected areas. Global Change Biology.
[34]  Cresswell GR, Golding T (1980) Observations of a south-flowing current in the southeastern Indian Ocean. Deep Sea Research Part A Oceanographic Research Papers 27: 449–466.
[35]  Veron JEN (2000) Corals of the World. Townsville, Australia: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
[36]  Roberts CM, McClean CJ, Veron JEN, Hawkins JP, Allen GR, et al. (2002) Marine biodiversity hotspots and conservation priorities for tropical reefs. Science 295: 1280–1284.
[37]  Veron JEN, Marsh LM (1988) Hermatypic corals of Western Australia: records and annotated species list: Western Australian Museum.
[38]  Wilson B, Blake S, Ryan D, Hacker J (2011) Reconnaissance of species-rich coral reefs in a muddy, macro-tidal, enclosed embayment, - Talbot Bay, Kimberley, Western Austrlia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 94: 251–265.
[39]  Hatcher BG (1991) Coral reefs in the Leeuwin Current-an ecological perspective. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 74: 115–127.
[40]  Wilson BR, Marsh LM (1979) Coral reef communities at the Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia, in a zone of bio-geographic overlap. In: Proceedings International Symposium on Marine Biogeography and Evolution in the Southern Hemisphere. Auckland, New Zealand. 259–278.
[41]  Davis D, Banks S, Birtles A, Valentine P, Cuthill M (1997) Whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park: managing tourism in an Australian marine protected area. Tourism Management 18: 259–271.
[42]  Smallwood CB, Beckley LE, Moore SA, Kobryn HT (2011) Assessing patterns of recreational use in large marine parks: A case study from Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia. Ocean & Coastal Management 54: 330–340.
[43]  Abdo DA, Bellchambers LM, Evans SN (2012) Turning up the heat: Increasing temperature and coral bleaching at the high latitude coral reefs of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. PLoS ONE 7: e43878.
[44]  Gilmour JP, Smith LD (2006) Category 5 cyclone at Scott Reef, northwestern Australia. Coral Reefs 25: 200.
[45]  Thomson DP, Bearham D, Graham F, Eagle JV (2011) High latitude, deeper water coral bleaching at Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Coral Reefs 30: 1107.
[46]  Moore JAY, Bellchambers M, Depczynski MR, Evans RD, Evans SN, et al.. (2012) Unprecedented mass bleaching and loss of coral across 12° of latitude in Western Australia in 2010–11. PLoS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0051807.
[47]  Depczynski M, Gilmour JP, Ridgway T, Barnes H, Heyward AJ, et al. (In Press) Bleaching, coral mortality and subsequent suvivorship on a West Australian fringing reef. Coral Reefs.
[48]  Commonwealth of Australia (2006) A Guide to the Integrated Marine and Coastal Regionalisation of Australia Version 4.0. Canberra: Department of the Environment and Heritage.
[49]  Onton K, Page CA, Wilson SK, Neale S, Armstrong S (2011) Distribution and drivers of coral disease at Ningaloo reef, Indian Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 433: 75–84.
[50]  Cassata L, Collins LB (2008) Coral reef communities, habitats, and substrates in and near sanctuary zones of Ningaloo Marine Park. Journal of Coastal Research: 139–151.
[51]  Greenstein BJ, Pandolfi JM (2008) Escaping the heat: range shifts of reef coral taxa in coastal Western Australia. Global Change Biology 14: 513–528.
[52]  CALM & MPRA (2005) Management Plan for the Ningaloo Marine Park and Muiron Islands Marine Management Area 2005–2015. Management Plan: 112.
[53]  Twiggs EJ, Collins LB (2010) Development and demise of a fringing coral reef during Holocene environmental change, eastern Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Marine Geology 275: 20–36.
[54]  Hearn CJ (1988) Parker (1988) IN. Hydrodynamic processes on the Ningaloo coral reef, Western Australia; Proceedings of the 6th International Coral Reef Symposium: Vol. 2: 497–502.
[55]  Woo M, Pattiaratchi C, Schroeder W (2006) Dynamics of the Ningaloo current off Point Cloates, Western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 57: 291–301.
[56]  Carleton J, Done T (1995) Quantitative video sampling of coral reef benthos: large-scale application. Coral Reefs 14: 35–46.
[57]  Leujak W, Ormond R (2007) Comparative accuracy and efficiency of six coral community survey methods. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 351: 168–187.
[58]  Wilson SK, Graham NAJ, Polunin NVC (2007) Appraisal of visual assessments of habitat complexity and benthic composition on coral reefs. Marine Biology 151: 1069–1076.
[59]  Glynn PW (1996) Coral reef bleaching: facts, hypotheses and implications. Global Change Biology 2: 495–509.
[60]  Cresswell G, Badcock K (2000) Tidal mixing near the Kimberley coast of NW Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 641–646.
[61]  Pearce A, Faskel F, Hyndes G (2006) Nearshore sea temperature variability off Rottnest Island (Western Australia) derived from satellite data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 27: 2503–2518.
[62]  Wernberg T, Smale DA, Tuya F, Thomsen MS, Langlois TJ, et al. (2012) An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot. Nature Climate Change 3: 78–82.
[63]  Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research: WH Freeman. New York.
[64]  Davison AC, Hinkley DV (1997) Bootstrap methods and their application. Cambridge Univ Press, UK.
[65]  Graham NAJ, Nash KL, Kool JT (2011) Coral reef recovery dynamics in a changing world. Coral Reefs 30: 283–294.
[66]  Mosquera I, C?té IM, Jennings S, Reynolds JD (2000) Conservation benefits of marine reserves for fish populations. Animal Conservation 3: 321–332.
[67]  Zuur AF, Ieno EN, Walker NJ, Saveliev AA, Smith GM (2009) Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R: Springer Verlag, New York.
[68]  Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach: Springer Verlag, New York.
[69]  Team RDC (2012) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing,Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3–900051–07–0, URL
[70]  Bellwood DR, Hughes TP (2001) Regional-scale assembly rules and biodiversity of coral reefs. Science 292: 1532–1535.
[71]  Sheppard CRC (2000) Coral reefs of the western Indian Ocean: an overview. In: McClanahan T, Sheppard CRC, Obura D, editors. Coral Reefs of the Indian Ocean - Their Ecology and Conservation. New York: Oxford University Press.
[72]  Dinsdale EA, Smith LD (2004) Broadscale survey of coral condition on the reefs of the Easter Group of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands. Western Australian Department of Fisheries.
[73]  Harriott V, Banks S (2002) Latitudinal variation in coral communities in eastern Australia: a qualitative biophysical model of factors regulating coral reefs. Coral Reefs 21: 83–94.
[74]  Lough JM, Barnes DJ (2000) Environmental controls on growth of the massive coral Porites. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 245: 225–243.
[75]  Cooper TF, O’Leary RA, Lough JM (2012) Growth of Western Australian corals in the Anthropocene. Science 335: 593–596.
[76]  Thomson DP, Frisch AJ (2010) Extraordinarily high coral cover on a nearshore, high-latitude reef in south-west Australia. Coral Reefs 29: 923–927.
[77]  Celliers L, Schleyer MH (2008) Coral community structure and risk assessment of high-latitude reefs at Sodwana Bay, South Africa. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 3097–3117.
[78]  Johannes RE, Wiebe WJ, Crossland CJ, Rimmer DW, Smith SV (1983) Latitudinal limits of coral reef growth. Marine Ecology Progress Series 11: 105–111.
[79]  Collins L, Zhu Z, Wyrwoll KH, Hatcher B, Playford P, et al. (1993) Late Quaternary evolution of coral reefs on a cool-water carbonate margin: the Abrolhos Carbonate Platforms, southwest Australia. Marine Geology 110: 203–212.
[80]  Schleyer MH, Celliers L (2003) Biodiversity on the marginal coral reefs of South Africa: What does the future hold? Zoologische Verhandelingen 345: 387–400.
[81]  Van Woesik R, Done TJ (1997) Coral communities and reef growth in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 16: 103–115.
[82]  Sofonia JJ, Anthony K (2008) High-sediment tolerance in the reef coral Turbinaria mesenterina from the inner Great Barrier Reef lagoon (Australia). Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 78: 748–752.
[83]  Anthony KRN (2006) Enhanced energy status of corals on coastal, high-turbidity reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 319: 111–116.
[84]  Kroon FJ, Kuhnert PM, Henderson BL, Wilkinson SN, Kinsey-Henderson A, et al. (2011) River loads of suspended solids, nitrogen, phosphorus and herbicides delivered to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Marine Pollution Bulletin 65: 167–181.
[85]  Olsson P, Folke C, Hughes TP (2008) Navigating the transition to ecosystem-based management of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105: 9489–9494.
[86]  Gilmour JP, Smith LD, Heyward AJ, Baird AH, Pratchett MS (2013) Recovery of an isolated coral reef system following severe disturbance. Science 340: 69–71.
[87]  Roff G, Clark TR, Reymond CE, Zhao J, Feng Y, et al. (2013) Palaeoecological evidence of a historical collapse of corals at Pelorus Island, inshore Great Barrier Reef, following European settlement. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280: 1471–2954.
[88]  Wilkinson C, Lindén O, Cesar H, Hodgson G, Rubens J, et al. (1999) Ecological and socioeconomic impacts of 1998 coral mortality in the Indian Ocean: An ENSO impact and a warning of future change? Ambio 28: 188.
[89]  Simpson CJ, Cary JL, Masini RJ (1993) Destruction of corals and other reef animals by coral spawn slicks on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Coral Reefs 12: 185–191.
[90]  Ayling T, Ayling AL (1987) Ningaloo Marine Park: Preliminary fish density assessment and habitat survey: with information on coral damage due to Drupella cornus drazing. Report prepared for the Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia: Department of Conservation and Land Management.
[91]  Trapon ML, Pratchett MS, Penin L (2011) Comparative effects of different disturbances in coral reef habitats in Moorea, French Polynesia. Journal of Marine Biology 2011: 1–11.
[92]  Madin JS, Connolly SR (2006) Ecological consequences of major hydrodynamic disturbances on coral reefs. Nature 444: 477–480.
[93]  Morton B, Blackmore G, Kwok C (2002) Corallivory and prey choice by Drupella rugosa (Gastropoda: Muricidae) in Hong Kong. Journal of Molluscan Studies 68: 217–223.
[94]  Linares C, Pratchett M, Coker D (2011) Recolonisation of Acropora hyacinthus following climate-induced coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Ecology Progress Series 438: 97–104.
[95]  Halford A, Cheal A, Ryan D, Williams DMB (2004) Resilience to large-scale disturbance in coral and fish assemblages on the Great Barrier Reef. Ecology 85: 1892–1905.
[96]  Edmunds PJ, Carpenter RC (2001) Recovery of Diadema antillarum reduces macroalgal cover and increases abundance of juvenile corals on a Caribbean reef. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98: 5067–5071.
[97]  Green DH, Edmunds PJ, Carpenter RC (2008) Increasing relative abundance of Porites astreoides on Caribbean reefs mediated by an overall decline in coral cover. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 359: 1 Check pages.
[98]  Hughes TP (1989) Community structure and diversity of coral reefs: the role of history. Ecology 70: 275–279.
[99]  Wilson SK, Depczynski M, Fisher R, Holmes TH, O’Leary RA, et al. (2010) Habitat associations of juvenile fish at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia: the importance of coral and algae. PLoS One 5: e15185.
[100]  Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NVC, Robinson JAN, et al. (2007) Lag effects in the impacts of mass coral bleaching on coral reef fish, fisheries, and ecosystems. Conservation Biology 21: 1291–1300.
[101]  Jones GP, McCormick MI, Srinivasan M, Eagle JV (2004) Coral decline threatens fish biodiversity in marine reserves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101: 8251–8253.
[102]  Graham NAJ, Wilson SK, Jennings S, Polunin NVC, Bijoux JP, et al. (2006) Dynamic fragility of oceanic coral reef ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103: 8425–8429.
[103]  Cole AJ, Pratchett MS, Jones GP (2008) Diversity and functional importance of coral feeding fishes on tropical coral reefs. Fish and Fisheries 9: 286–307.
[104]  Przeslawski R, Ahyong S, Byrne M, Worheide G, Hutchings P (2008) Beyond corals and fish: the effects of climate change on noncoral benthic invertebrates of tropical reefs. Global Change Biology 14: 2773–2795.
[105]  Connell JH, Hughes TP, Wallace CC (1997) A 30-year study of coral abundance, recruitment, and disturbance at several scales in space and time. Ecological Monographs 67: 461–488.
[106]  Hughes TP, Baird AH, Dinsdale EA, Moltschaniwskyj NA, Pratchett MS, et al. (2012) Assembly rules of reef corals are flexible along a steep climatic gradient. Current Biology 22: 736–741.
[107]  Richards ZT, Bryce M, Bryce C (2013) New records of atypical coral reef habitat in the Kimberley, Australia. Journal of Marine Biology 2013: 1–8.
[108]  Bellwood D, Hughes T, Folke C, Nystr?m M (2004) Confronting the coral reef crisis. Nature 429: 827–833.
[109]  Figueira WF, Booth DJ (2010) Increasing ocean temperatures allow tropical fishes to survive overwinter in temperate waters. Global Change Biology 16: 506–516.
[110]  Last PR, White WT, Gledhill DC, Hobday AJ, Brown R, et al. (2011) Long-term shifts in abundance and distribution of a temperate fish fauna: a response to climate change and fishing practices. Global Ecology and Biogeography 20: 58–72.


comments powered by Disqus