Monday, March 20, 2006

Jamaican phoenix?

Jamaican coral reefs are often given as the classic example of reef degradation and virtual collapse. But a paper published in Coral Reefs (15 Mar) says there has been a rapid phase shift reversal on at least one:
...Dairy Bull on the north shore near Discovery Bay is once again dominated by scleractinian corals and several key species have returned. Living coral cover at 6 to 8 m depth...has doubled over the past 9 years and is now [about] 54%. The absolute cover of [Staghorn coral] was [less than] 1% in 1995, but increased to about 11% by January 2004. During this time the cover of macroalgae decreased by 90% from 45 to 6 %.
The authors speculate that long-lived colonies of Lobed star coral (Montastraea annularis) may have facilitated recovery by providing structural refugia.

"This change occurred on reefs still heavily overfished, [with] no increased protection from wastewater or stormwater runoff, and an ever increasing local [human] population", says Bill Precht.

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