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Severe impact and subsequent recovery of a coral assemblage following the 1997-8 El Niño event: a 17-year study from Bahia, Brazil



Severe impact and subsequent recovery of a coral assemblage following the 1997-8 El Niño event: a 17-year study from Bahia, Brazil



Plos One 8(5): E65073



The coral reefs of northern Bahia evolved in isolation from other Atlantic systems and under conditions of high environmental stress, particularly high turbidity. We have monitored the scleractinian assemblage of four shallow bank reefs (Praia do Forte, Itacimirim, Guarajuba and Abai) annually for 17 years since 1995, collecting quantitative data on diversity and density of coral colonies. As the sampling period included the 1997-8 El Niño event, the most severe on record, for the first time these results allow a quantitative assessment of the long-term impact of this major environmental stressor on such a coral assemblage. After El Niño, most species showed significantly reduced densities of colonies, this decline occurring for the subsequent two years without evidence of any new settlement until 2001. From 2000 to 2007 the species Porites astreoides went unrecorded. Recovery was slow, and multivariate analysis revealed that assemblages had not returned to the pre-El Niño state until 2011. It therefore took 13 years for full recovery of the coral assemblage to occur, which has consequences for reef systems if such El-Niño events become more frequent in the future.

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Accession: 055739765

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PMID: 23741459

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065073


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