Revisiting the winners and the losers a decade after coral bleaching
van Woesik, Robert
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Over the past 3 decades, thermal stress events have damaged corals globally. Few studies, however, have tracked the recovery process or assessed whether winners in the short term are also winners in the long term. In the present study, we repeatedly sampled a coral assemblage over a 14 yr period, from 1997 to 2010, through 2 thermal stress events (in 1998 and 2001). Our goal was to examine the consistency of short-term winner and loser outcomes over the recovery period. Although species richness had recovered after 10 yr, the reef composition had changed, and few pocilloporids were to be found. The short-term winners were the thermally tolerant encrusting and massive coral morphologies (Porites and faviids) and Acropora colonies <5 cm in diameter. Long-term winners were revealed as (1) thermally tolerant, locally persistent colonies, (2) remnant survivors that rapidly regrew, and (3) regionally persistent colonies that recruited.